The local government authority for Sydney’s central district and surrounding suburbs has been criticised for promoting New Year’s Eve fireworks while the NSW bushfires continue to rage on.
On Friday morning the official City of Sydney Twitter account shared vantage point suggestions and ticket information ahead of the December 31 fireworks display on Sydney Harbour.
“New Year’s Eve is coming up faster than you think! Choose the perfect spot now to watch the fireworks via our interactive map. Filter via area, free vs ticketed events and other details,” read the tweet.
One Twitter user replied: “Not really the right time to be discussing fireworks.. #NSWfires”.
Over the past week NSW and Queensland have been ravaged by wild bushfires, with four people killed and communities forced to flee the flames.
The NSW Rural Fire Service has announced a state-wide fire ban, announcing on Friday that 259 homes are confirmed destroyed in the NSW bushfire since Friday November 8.
Responding to criticism, a City of Sydney spokesperson told HuffPost Australia: “We’ve all been deeply saddened by the destructive bushfires ravaging NSW and Queensland.
“The City of Sydney extends its sympathy to those affected and also acknowledges the hard work of the NSW Rural Fire Service and all emergency service responders who have saved countless lives and homes.
“Sydney New Year’s Eve is one of the world’s biggest public events. The event attracts more than one million people to the harbour foreshore, more than one billion global viewers and generates more than $130 million into the NSW economy annually.”
After having donated more than $200,000 to drought affected communities last year, the council said it’s considering a Monday night meeting to approve further donations towards bushfire relief organisations.
Earlier on Friday former MasterChef contestant Hayden Quinn published a series of tweets, asking City of Sydney why a 20-minute fireworks display staged east of the Opera House was allowed on Wednesday night.
“THIS is insane. Total fire ban Greater Sydney Region at catastrophic fire warning and some muppet in @cityofsydney allows this to happen? How is this possible @CloverMoore @GladysB @FRNSW #NSWbushfires,” he wrote.
City of Sydney responded to the reality star, explaining the fireworks he was referring to were not administered by the council, but by the state’s workplace health and safety regulator, Safe Work NSW.
“Hi there, Hayden. We only display fireworks during the Sydney Lunar Festival, the Christmas tree lighting at Martin Place and our world-famous New Year’s Eve celebration. The fireworks you’re referring to were not organised by the City of Sydney. It’s @SafeWork_NSW that manages and regulates the planning and authorisation of fireworks displays. Roads and @NSWMaritime approves fireworks on the Sydney Harbour waterways”.
Andrew Howard, director of Howard and Sons Pyrotechnics, released a statement on Thursday, saying the NSW Fire Service had granted an exemption to the fire ban on this occasion.
According to SBS, Howard told AAP that it was a private company that booked the display, and he was simply “contracted to provide the services for the event”.
Rural Fire Service NSW deputy commissioner Rob Rogers also defended the display, saying, “It was assessed by Fire Rescue. They made a recommendation it was appropriate to go ahead”.
Darling Harbour usually hosts fireworks every Saturday night, but has confirmed this weekend’s display has been cancelled amid the bushfires.
“In light of the bushfire emergency across NSW during the week commencing 11 November 2019, the Darling Harbour fireworks display is cancelled on Saturday 16 November 2019,” read an official statement on the Darling Harbour website.
“Along with Harbourside Shopping Centre and Cockle Bay Wharf, we will make a donation to the NSW Rural Fire Service, whose staff and volunteers work tirelessly across our state to protect the lives and properties of so many.