Iconic Sydney Fireworks Display Could Be Cancelled Because Of Australian Bushfires
The chief of Sydney's fire service has refused to rule out cancelling the city's famous New Year's Eve fireworks display if there are safety concerns surrounding the current bushfires. Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison previously insisted they would go ahead.
Mr Morrison was subject to criticism earlier this month when he went away on holiday while Australia battled record-breaking the bushfires. The fires have so far killed at least nine people since September and are estimated to have destroyed more than 1,000 homes.
A petition has been set up to protest against the Sydney fireworks display and has so far been signed by over 260,000 people.
In a statement, Mr Morrison said: "On New Year's Eve, the world looks at Sydney. Every single year.
"And they look at our vibrancy, they look at our passion, they look at our success.
"And so in the midst of the challenges that we have face, subject to the safety considerations, I can think of no better time to express to the world just how optimistic and positive we are as a country."
But New South Wales fire commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said of the display: "If I determine it to be too risky, that doesn't concern me.
"The pyrotechnics organisations and local authorities are used to working with us around exemptions in the summer period, whether it is Christmas, New Year or some other event.
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"They know the arrangements, the procedures, and we will work through to make sure that risk is appropriately addressed and, where necessary, we won't allow them to go ahead."
Concerns arose not only around the risk of further fires risk, but because of the financial implications. Last year, AU$5.8 million (£3 million) was spent on the display according to the Financial Review, an amount which some who signed the online petition say should be spent to support those affected by the bushfires.
The petition also said that the firework display could 'traumatise some people' as there is 'enough smoke in the air'.
However, Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore said that, while she had 'deep sympathies' with the petition signers, the firework display will still take place because the money has already been spent.
She wrote on the petition's website: "We can't cancel the fireworks and even if we could, doing so would have little practical benefit."
As the bushfires continue, Mr Morrison previously said compensating volunteer firefighters wasn't a priority, but recently backtracked after mounting pressure around the sheer number of volunteers now being used.
The Prime Minister has now said that payments of up to AU$6,000 (£4,587) would be available for certain volunteer firefighters to make up for loss of earnings if they had spent 10 days or more helping to control the bushfires.
Featured Image Credit: PA