Momentum Builds As Petition To Cancel Sydney NYE 2019 Grows To 10,000 Signatures

UPDATE (19/11/2019): City Of Sydney Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, has announced a bushfire/drought appeal for Sydney NYE2019 and said staff are considering how to drive donations.

After predicting there is a chance strong controversy may break out in late December about Sydney NYE due to Wednesday night’s controversially-held corporate fireworks display on Sydney Harbour, it seems momentum has already begun.

Whilst Huffington Post Australia made it’s view known (and the potential for future wider media support for a Sydney NYE cancellation) by writing a sensationalised article about 1 tweeter who disliked Sydney NYE being promoted on Twitter in the middle of the bushfire emergency, it seems community sediment is growing for cancellation with a Change.org petition appearing 5 days ago (before Wednesday night’s controversy) but it has since grown to nearly 10,000 signatures. The petition’s statement and title is below:

Giving NYE firework funds to Aussie farmers and those affected by fire

Kayla Neale started this petition to Scott Morrison (Prime Minister of Australia)

With Australia facing drought and now catastrophic fires, decimating towns as it tears across our country, the thought of spending MILLIONS of dollars on a firework display when it could be used to support and rebuild our country instead is infuriating.

Join me in petitioning that the funds for the 2019/2020 New Years Firework display in Sydney are instead allocated to the Aussie farmers affected by drought and the Aussie citzens affected by the fires.

It’s times like these when we as a nation need to look at our priorities and I believe the new year should be welcomed in in the aussie way; by giving our fellow Australians a helping hand!

X Kayla

Another petition has about 3500 signatures at the time of this article’s initial publication. It said:

Say NO to FIREWORKS NYE 2019 give the money to farmers and firefighters

Linda McCormick started this petition to PM Scott Morrison (PM office AUSTRALIA)

2019 has been a catastrophic year in Australia for Floods and Fires. Give the money we spend on FIREWORKS New Years Eve to farmers and Firefighters and Animal Carers. Save AUSTRALIA’s Wildlife.
5.8 MILLION $$ was spent in Sydney alone for fireworks last year. All states should say NO to FIREWORKS. This may traumatise some people as there is enough smoke in the air.

The event does costs around $6 million.

However, the fireworks, to the best of our knowledge, make up about 1/3 of that cost. It varies between 1 to 2.4 million dollars. Other costs (the other 2/3)  would include marketing, lighting, projections, broadcasting, road closures, marine management, logistics etc.

The event also contributes $133 million to the ‘local’ economy.

The 2nd petitioner also added:

Thoughts and Thankyou’s

Linda McCormick
Townsville, Australia

NOV 14, 2019 —  Latest thoughts not only stop the fireworks NYE 2019 but 1 min silence at 11.45pm NEW YEARS EVE for all the people around the world who have been effected by catastrophic weather events. To show respect for mankind.

This idea isn’t a bad one. It has been done before in 2004 for the Indian Ocean Earthquake & Tsunami (death toll: 227,898) right before the 10 second countdown to the 9pm Family Fireworks. On an equivalent scale for local bushfires, sadly, it would be have to be worse (approximately 280 deaths) in NSW than the Black Saturday bushfires of Victoria in 2009 (death toll: 176), which has double the death toll of the 2nd worst recorded bushfire in Australian history. We don’t that to happen again. This year’s bushfire season death toll is 6 nationally.

In any case, if you are cancelling the fireworks as well, it would be (no offense) pointless to have a minute’s silence by the Harbour as there is no reason to hold it at 11:45pm at night if there is no one there to acknowledge it (unless everyone is still celebrating NYE, right?). No one will go to the Harbour if there are no fireworks or light shows. They would head to the nightclubs or possibly still on their cruises to celebrate at private rather than public functions (with huge discounts hopefully) unless they are boycotting celebrating NYE out of respect for the firefighters and victims of the bushfires. Holding a minute’s silence in the daytime at a national service not on NYE or New Year’s Day would be more appropriate in such a case.

There are a few other faults with these petitions though.

Firstly, it is addressed to the Prime Minister Of Australia.

The Prime Minister Of Australia is not involved with Sydney NYE. The closest you can get is the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the official television and Internet broadcaster and the major sponsor of the event.

However, if they don’t remove their sponsorship to cripple the event, the best the ABC can do in protest is to not broadcast or stream the event.

Secondly, most of the funds are already spent.

Planning begins usually in October the previous year so 13 months ago. The show’s soundtrack has been made, the fireworks programmed. The fireworks are probably being made right now.

Thirdly, it is a City Of Sydney event.

Unless Sydneysiders are definitely wanting to cancel the event, then the event will likely proceed assuming the bushfire conditions aren’t worse than Black Christmas.

However, the NSW Government can overrule them. If NSW wants the event cancelled, the NSW Government could withdraw support & their financial contributions (such as, most notably, not letting Foti International Fireworks use the Sydney Harbour Bridge). It would contravene a memorandum of understanding signed every 5 years with the City Of Sydney but that is not a legally binding contract.

Whilst momentum is building, the key times to watch are the 24 hours after the media launch and shortly before Christmas Day. If bushfire conditions deteriorate, public pressure may be very strong particularly after Wednesday night’s controversial fireworks display & these growing petitions. However, precedent was set in 2001 – the bushfires would have to be worse than Black Christmas for cancellation to be possible. With forecasts also being made for a horror bushfire season, a cancellation is not too far a stretch of the imagination. Outside of the annual threat of strong winds, air quality would be the biggest threat in the event of extreme bushfires.

No one wants this to happen but in regards to fatalities, the death toll would have to be the worst ever for a disaster in Australia – 280+ or (slightly higher than 0.003% of the NSW population) – to go higher than the Sydney NYE precedent set by the 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake & Tsunami, which shocked humanity (Death toll there was 0.003% of the human population or 227,898 lives). Sydney NYE went ahead after that devastating international event.

If bushfires are near or on the date of the media launch, given the recent controversies, we’d assume it would be postponed to after the bushfires have been extinguished or burnt out, assuming there is enough time left to do a media launch (and if they are going to do one. We’d assume so as they’ve done it every year).

If every petitioner was from the City Of Sydney local government area (can’t be guaranteed), their anger would be noticeable so 10,000 petitioners is a significant number. It just depends on their location. Outside of the City Of Sydney, the anger currently might not be noticeable. If they are all from the City Of Sydney, it is currently enough to give concern to holding the event.

The best we can hope for right now is for the City Of Sydney to consider the possibility of setting up a bushfire/drought appeal running from the media launch in early to mid December until Midnight on NYE. Donations could be taken throughout the night on the ground, via the ABC, via social media.

The total amount raised could be revealed on the pylons during the Midnight Fireworks too or the Sydney Opera House could be turned into a unique ‘fundraiser thermometer’ with throughout the night the amount being donated continuously updating or a representation of how much towards a target has been achieved (though the latter is riskier in case the target was too ambitious or unexpectedly not many people donated)

However, this idea would conflict with this year’s Sydney NYE charity partner, Refugee Council Of Australia. It could though provide an educational opportunity for the charity partner to emphasise the potential migration of refugees from global warming events such as more frequent and intense bushfires.

An appeal though would be similar to the appeal they did in 2004 for the Indian Ocean Earthquake & Tsunami. That one raised AUS$1.2 million in 3 days with the City Of Sydney starting with a $50,000 donation. Unlike in 2004 though, which was mainly a domestic appeal done by the official NYE charity partner, Oxfam, on the official television broadcast, this one would be international due to the Internet broadcasts now occurring. Even a donation appeal to help koalas in bushfire areas would go great around the world. It could raise millions of dollars (at least half the cost of the event) if each viewer/spectator only donated at least $1.

At the time it was current Lord Mayor Clover Moore’s first year in office, she said this of the appeal:

NYE is a time for celebration and reflection and this year we want all those people that get to enjoy the event to have a great night and at the same time think about those less fortunate who are affected by the tsunami tragedy and do what they can by giving generously to the fund

And in the annual Lord Mayor’s NYE Message (since discontinued):

This year our traditional New Year’s Eve celebrations have been overshadowed by the tsunami disaster.

As the full extent of the tragedy has started to emerge in recent days it has shocked and saddened us all.

I know that as a community, and as good neighbours, Australians feel the need to acknowledge the devastation, pay our respects to those who lost their lives, and offer to help in any way we can.

Coming together tonight to mark the passing of the old year and the beginning of the new gives us an opportunity to pause and reflect.

As a community, we can express our condolences for those who lost their lives, homes and loved ones so suddenly and without warning.

We can also reflect on the help that is needed right now and well into the future, and the part we – as a nation, and as individuals – can contribute.

The commencement of the new year will mark the beginning of a new relationship with our Asian neighbours – a new level of engagement, with a shared understanding of our common humanity, and our common frailty.

Founded on a shared compassion and a collective commitment to help those affected by this disaster.

As a country we experience bushfires, droughts and floods. We know that troubled times often bring out the best in people and create close bonds as we pull together to help one another.

As the year 2005 commences it is time to extend the hand of friendship and assist our Asian neighbours in their time of need.

An official New Years Eve fundraising appeal has been set up tonight with Oxfam collection points around the city until 9pm.  Television viewers can make a donation by calling 1800 034 034. 

Rather than a carefree “happy new year” it may be more appropriate to wish one another a compassionate New Year for 2005.

New Years Eve is traditionally a time when we greet the new year with hope and optimism for the future.  Let’s express this tonight by giving generously.

Thank you.

Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore, MP

A petition last year to stop The Everest Barrier Draw being projected onto the Sydney Opera House contained nearly 300,000 signatures for comparison. However, that was more of a State Government issue. Sydney NYE is a local government event so less signatures (around 10,000) have meaning and could have an effect if the signers are mostly from the City Of Sydney local government area.

Update (18/11/2019): At least 3 more petitions have been found online.

While the City Of Sydney last Thursday would not comment on hypothetical situations, we have contacted the ABC for enquiries.

This post updates.