Just one day out from New Year’s Eve, a growing online campaign is fighting to cancel all fireworks demonstrations across Australia.
A change.org petition calling to “Say NO to FIREWORKS NYE 2019 – give the money to farmers and firefighters” has gathered more than 268,800 signatures from supporters, who don’t want to celebrate the start of 2020 with a fireworks display.
The deputy premier of NSW today expressed his support for shutting down the fireworks display, calling it a “very easy decision”. John Barilaro, the NSW leader of the Nationals, said cancelling the display was about a show of unity, as Australia worked through the ongoing bushfire and drought crisis.
“Sydney’s New Year’s Eve Fireworks should just be cancelled, very easy decision,” Barilaro wrote on Twitter.
“The risk is too high and we must respect our exhausted RFS volunteers. If regional areas have had fireworks banned, then let’s not have two classes of citizens. We’re all in this crisis together.”
Many disagreed with the deputy’s comments, saying people were looking forward to the annual fireworks display. Others praised his comments.
His comments were supported by the popular change.org petition, which has called for fireworks to be called off in all states around Australia this New Year’s Eve.
“All states should say NO to FIREWORKS,” the petition reads. “This may traumatise some people as there is enough smoke in the air.”
According to the petition, $5.8 million was spent in Sydney on its New Year’s Eve fireworks display last year.
The campaign proposes that the millions spent this year should instead be allocated to “farmers, firefighters and animal carers”.
But Sydney New Years Eve celebration organisers have dismissed suggestions that cancelling the pyrotechnic display would be beneficial to people affected by the ongoing bushfires crisis.
“We know that cancelling the fireworks will have zero practical benefit for those fire-ravaged communities,” Tanya Goldberg, the Sydney NYE head of audience told Today this morning.
“The one thing that will help those communities is to go ahead with the event and leverage the power of it to drive people to donate, to demonstrate their generosity by going to the Australian Red Cross disaster relief and recovery fund.”
“They can go to nye.Sydney/donate and we will be promoting that in the lead up, and that I can do.”
When asked if there would be any kind of tribute to the tireless efforts of volunteer fireys during the show, Ms Goldberg said “no”.
“There will not be an overt tribute to the firefighters – (creative) plans were put in place months and months and months ago, but we are doing everything to throw our support behind them,” she said.
Despite the petition, Shane Fitzsimmons, commissioner of the NSW Rural Fire Service, is expected to give the Sydney New Years Eve fireworks the go-ahead this afternoon, after days of debate and speculation.
He said crews will be working with the pyrotechnics companies, local authorities and government, and the decision will be based on weather and wind patterns on the day.
“We will be weighing up the risks this afternoon with more details on the forecast. I don’t envisage a cancellation of the fireworks on account of the total fire bans,” he said.
“Any perceived risk will be remediated.”
After receiving a firmed-up weather outlook midafternoon on Monday, the NSW RFS will make a final call on Sydney’s fireworks, but Commissioner Fitzsimmons said he’s “confident, unless something untoward comes out of the forecast”, the event will go ahead.
The NSW RFS is working with all parties to finalise exemptions on total fire ban for Sydney City Council, he said.
In many rural and regional areas, where the “risk is very different”, total fire ban exemptions haven’t been granted for local fireworks celebrations.
HOW TO WATCH THE SYDNEY FIREWORKS
Those wanting to watch the fireworks displays can take advantage of the numerous vantage points scattered around the Sydney CBD and suburbs on New Year’s Eve.
At the Sydney Opera House and Bennelong Point, the 7000 person capacity was reached at 11am on New Year’s Eve last year, some 13 hours before the final fireworks display.
You should be aware if you’re going to brave the crowds, there are restrictions at Bennelong Point — there’s no glass allowed, no pets, no busking and you’re not allowed to camp there to try and save a position.
You can access Sydney Harbour and Circular Quay via trains, buses, ferries and the newly opened Sydney Metro.
Those using buses should be advised that thousands of extra services will be running throughout the night. Services will be altered as road closures will be in place on the night. Buses to Circular Quay will relocate to Martin Place to 2pm to 6pm. Buses to and from North Sydney will use alternate stops on Miller Street and Pacific Highway due to closures from 3pm to 3am.
All buses in the city will operate to and from temporary bus terminals in Hyde Park, Town Hall and Wynyard.
The Sydney Harbour Bridge will be closed from 11pm to 1.30am for the fireworks.
Signs will be available to guide you to your chosen vantage point to check out the fireworks.
Those using ferries are warned that services will be busy on New Year’s Eve, and to arrive early and “have a plan B”.
Ferries won’t stop at McMahons Point wharf after 10am. Ferries won’t stop at Milsons Point wharf after 3pm. At some wharves, the last ferries to the city leave around 4.15pm. Ferries won’t stop at Circular Quay after 5pm.
A harbour exclusion zone will be in place from 8pm until 12.45am. No ferries will operate during this time.
Limited ferries operate to the lower north shore and northern beaches after the midnight fireworks.
No ferries down the Parramatta River or to the eastern suburbs after the midnight fireworks.
Check last service details for the Sydney Fast Ferry, Manly Fast Ferry and Eco Hopper.
Extra train services will run on New Year’s Eve and into the early hours of the new year.
Some stations will have early closing times and different operating schedules due to crowding.
Trains won’t stop at Circular Quay from 5pm until midnight. Those wanting to access the Harbour Foreshore are advised to use Wynyard or Martin Place or St James stations.
From 6pm until midnight, trains from the city to the north shore won’t stop at Milsons Point due to large crowds. For access to lower north shore vantage points, exit the train at North Sydney and walk.
From 12.30am until 4.30am trains won’t stop at Domestic Airport and International Airport stations as Sydney Airport will be closed.
OTHER PLACES TO WATCH THE FIREWORKS
There are numerous 52 other vantage points where you can view the fireworks around Sydney, for a range of different prices. There are 33 vantage points that are available for access at no cost, and the remainder are ticketed at a range of prices, between $5.30 and $2200.
Vantage points are scattered all across Sydney, from Shelly Beach and North Head in Manly, to Elkington Park in Balmain in inner west Sydney, and the Rose Bay Foreshore in the eastern suburbs. A full list of official vantage points, including prices and detailed information is available at the Sydney New Years Eve site.
If you feel like splashing out, tickets to Cockatoo Island are available for between $400 – $2200. There is no BYO at the island, but you’re allowed to drink there.
There are also numerous vantage points where you can stake out a position for free.