By TILEAH DOBSON
Young families are welcoming City of Sydney Councillor Linda Scott’s call for a debate over the cancellation of Sydney’s 9pm New Year’s Eve fireworks, which are usually held for children three hours before the main midnight fireworks.
Last year, the 9pm fireworks were cancelled due to public health concerns over the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. The NSW Government took control of the fireworks displays from the City of Sydney, scaling back the midnight fireworks as well.
This year, the 9pm fireworks have once again been cancelled.
Families – and especially children – have expressed disappointment at the decision.
Western Sydney resident Susan Mork and her son, Sebastian, were among those upset by the news.
“I was disappointed last year,” Sebastian said. “That will be two years in a row!”
Liverpool resident 12-year-old Matthew Jaju was also upset upon hearing the cancellation.
“I have always enjoyed watching the New Years Eve fireworks at 9pm because I usually tried to stay awake until midnight but couldn’t do it, because I start to get tired,” Matthew said.
“Hearing the news from my family upset me.”
The cancellation follows a letter from the Lord Mayor to NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian in August, offering the state government custodianship of the fireworks once again – but the offer was not accepted.
Public health issues were the main concerns for Ms Moore, especially with the rise of the Delta variant of Covid-19, which was not a factor last year.
Ms Berejiklian referred Ms Moore’s letter to NSW Minister for Tourism, Stuart Ayres – however, the minister is yet to reply.
Last night, Ms Moore sent a follow-up letter to Ms Berejiklian – seen by the Sentinel – in which she said: “A significant risk in relation to hosting a 9pm fireworks event in a Covid-safe way is the capacity of transport, police and emergency services to manage the two sets of large crowds entering and leaving the city, including the likely number of unvaccinated children that would come to any 9pm fireworks event.”
Speaking to the Sentinel today, the Lord Mayor said: “I wrote to the Premier in August to confirm the arrangements discussed between City staff and NSW Government agencies – that the City would replicate what the government had done in 2020, holding a midnight-only display. This decision was acknowledged by the Premier and referred to Tourism Minister Ayres.”
Ms Moore said that as the public health orders and their enforcement were state government responsibilities, the NSW Government also bore some responsibility for the decision to cancel the 9pm fireworks.
“For an event the scale of Sydney New Year’s Eve, contracts are signed, plans are made and money is spent months in advance. Given the ongoing health concern, the City cannot take responsibility for an event that might not proceed, or might not be safe to proceed,” she told the Sentinel.
“The NSW Government is responsible for health, transport and police. If the government is concerned about the City’s plans and confident a Covid-safe event can and should go ahead, it should take custodianship of the fireworks again,” she said.
The cancellation of the 9pm fireworks has received significant backlash from both the public and other councillors of the City of Sydney. The City will be holding an extraordinary meeting within the next 14 days, at Clr Scott’s instigation, to discuss the scrapping of the fireworks.
Clr Scott, Labor’s Lord Mayoral candidate, has expressed her shock about the decision to scrap the 9pm fireworks, which she says was made without input of the council and Sydney’s communities.
“I’m for a fun City of Sydney future. Sydneysiders deserve to celebrate New Year’s Eve with a bang, not a whimper,” she said.
“Sydney deserves a significant and Covid-safe New Year’s Eve. Importantly, our local businesses are depending on a Covid-safe New Year’s Eve to survive and the event raises millions for Sydney charities. After what has been a very difficult year Sydney deserves to ring in the New Year, Covid-safe, in style.
“The Lord Mayor should publish the NSW Health advice she has received, if any, about holding a New Year’s Eve event, and explain why fireworks at midnight are Covid-safe, but those at 9pm are not.”
Tileah Dobson is the news editor of the Sydney Sentinel.