NSW Deputy Premier Calls For Sydney NYE Fireworks To Be Cancelled
As authorities prepare to make the final call on whether Sydney's New Year's Eve fireworks will go-ahead, the NSW deputy premier says it should be cancelled.
John Barilaro says cancelling Australia's biggest annual fireworks event should be an "easy decision" as the "risk is too high".
"We must respect our exhausted RFS volunteers," he wrote on Twitter on Monday morning.
"If regional areas have had fireworks banned, then let’s not have two classes of citizens ... We’re all in this crisis together."
Barilaro's comments have divided the state, with many residents expressing that they were looking forward to the event.
Others supported his view, with high temperatures and dangerous fire conditions forecast to impact the state on Tuesday.
NSW RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons has refused to rule out the possibility of calling off the harbour fireworks at the last minute.
On Monday the RFS confirmed there were 100 bush and grass fires burning across NSW and total fire bans were in place for ten regions.
Some council areas have already made the call to cancel or postpone local fireworks displays, including Armidale in the state's northern tablelands and Huskisson on the state's south coast.
More than 268,000 people have signed a petition calling for NYE fireworks to be scrapped -- and funding redirected to drought and bushfire relief in the state.
However, City of Sydney spokeswoman Tanya Goldberg said the council is of the "firm view" the event should proceed.
"Preparations began 15 months ago which means that most of the budget, largely used for crowd safety and cleansing measures, has already been spent," she told reporters on Sunday.
"Cancelling would have little practical benefit for devastated communities."
The state's premier Gladys Berejiklian supported the city's decision to go ahead with the fireworks.
"Sydney is one of the first cities in the world welcoming in the New Year. If it is safe to do so, we should continue to do it as we have done every other year," Ms Berejiklian said.
"If there is no safety reason why those fireworks shouldn't continue, we will proceed."
Sydney's Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the New Year's Eve event could be used to encourage people around the world to support relief workers who are helping Australians who have been impacted by the bushfires.
The ABC, which is broadcasting the fireworks, will raise funds throughout the night for the Red Cross in its first ever New Year's Eve Broadcast Appeal.
Noel Clement, Red Cross Director of Australian Programs, said the funds will go towards the charity's Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund.
“The partnership with Australia’s national emergency services broadcaster will result in much-needed support for those in the worst-affected communities,” he said in a statement.
“People have been deeply moved by the scale of the losses in the recent disasters and want to do what they can to help.
But the vocal support is considered 'too late' for some business owners who say they've been financially impacted by the debate.
"Usually by the start of December our biggest problem is that we don’t have enough boats in Sydney for the number of people that want to hire them, however, this year about 20 per cent of Sydney’s boats have not yet been booked," Daniel Da Silva of charter boat agency Any Boat said.
“This represents millions of dollars to the economy since New Year's Eve in Sydney is all about Sydney Harbour, and boats, and this year people are too scared to book a boat because of the rumours of cancelled fireworks," he claimed.
“We are taking countless calls every day from guests who booked in advance, both from Australia and all around the world, in a panic because they have been promised a New Year's Eve spectacle and have now heard rumours of a Sydney Harbour shut down,” Da Silva said.
A council spokesman said they would work with authorities if a total fire ban was declared for Sydney on New Year's Eve.