Sydney New Year’s Eve 2019 could be the 3rd edition of the event ever & the 1st edition in 31 years to be cancelled if ‘catastrophic’ fire danger is forecast tomorrow afternoon.
The last time Sydney New Year’s Eve was cancelled completely was in 1987 & 1988 due to rising violence that culminated with a mass murder in The Rocks during the 1986 edition. On NYE2002, the 9pm Family Fireworks were postponed to Australia Day (January 26) due to 90km/h winds and then was cancelled on January 24 due to a total fire ban, predicted extreme fire danger & out of respect for firefighters.
An internal e-mail, obtained by The Sunday Telegraph & dated the 27th of December, to the Northern Beaches Councillors from the Northern Beaches Council Executive Manager Of Community Engagement, Kath McKenzie, says a decision was made at a meeting of local governments, state government & the New South Wales Rural Fire Service just before 25 December:
The decision was that the City Of Sydney fireworks will go ahead unless catastrophic fire conditions are forecast.
In the situation where catastrophic fire conditions are declared, …all…will be cancelled.
However, a Rural Fire Service spokesman has told the Sydney Morning Herald it’s “highly unlikely” Sydney NYE2019 fireworks will have their exemption revoked.
“We are highly unlikely to see extreme or catastrophic fire warnings through Sydney. I would be surprised if they were cancelled,” the spokesman said, given the fire danger is likely to be ‘severe’ and the fireworks are over the Harbour and unlikely to spread to at-risk bush areas:
We are expecting a change to move through the state in the afternoon and early evening on New Year’s Eve, which may result in no total fire bans for New Year’s Day
However, Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said:
We are expecting the southerly change to move through the coast, impact into the Sydney basin around about 7 in the evening. We are mindful of the volatility of a southerly.
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.
They know the arrangements, the procedures, and we will work through to make sure that risk is appropriately addressed & where necessary, we won’t allow them to go ahead
Last time catastrophic fire conditions were forecast, which was 8 days ago, all aerial fireworks were banned.
New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she would take advice from the Rural Fire Service:
We’re elected on behalf of the community to protect our community, to protect our citizens but if there is no safety reason why those fireworks shouldn’t continue, we will proceed.
We are a hopeful, optimistic state
We are a resilient state
We appreciate that there is a lot of suffering in the community at the moment
I appreciate there’s a lot of anxiety in the community, there is a lot of fear, depending on where you live about what’s happening in the community at the moment but the best thing we can do is to stay strong and resilient … We will get through these times, as difficult as they are
If the RFS, if the experts, say it’s safe to have the fireworks continue, well, we should do that
I would support the efforts in keeping the fireworks going
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
I think it is important to send a message to the world, so long as it is safe to do so … we will keep doing what we do normally
The Sunday Telegraph understood that fire trucks would be stationed at headlands & bushland vantage points around the Harbour throughout NYE.
Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, today said:
I think it is important to send a message to the world, so long as it is safe to do so – we will take the advice of the Rural Fire Service as we do every year – as long as it is safe to do so. We will keep doing what we do normally.
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 they all think to themselves, ‘What an amazing place’.
They are right and so in the midst of the challenges that we have faced, 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
In an updated statement to the one released 11 days ago, the City Of Sydney said:
Why we’re not cancelling the fireworks
We appreciate the concerns people have around holding the event while large parts of Australia are dealing with bushfires and drought. And we’ve heard the calls from people to cancel the event and donate the budget to relief efforts.
But we cannot cancel the New Year’s Eve celebrations. Even if we could, it would have little practical benefit for affected communities.
We began preparations and planning for the New Year’s Eve celebrations 15 months ago. This means most of the budget – largely used for crowd safety and cleaning measures – has already been spent.
Cancelling the event would seriously hurt Sydney businesses. It would also ruin plans for tens of thousands of people from across the country and overseas who have booked flights, hotels and restaurants to be here for New Year’s Eve.
Planning for weather conditions
The City of Sydney works closely with NSW Government agencies such as the Department of Premier and Cabinet, NSW Health, NSW Police and Fire and Rescue NSW in the lead-up to Sydney New Year’s Eve.
If a total fire ban is declared, we will continue to liaise with NSW Government agencies and the NSW Rural Fire Service to determine the safest way to proceed with the event.
In the event of high winds, we will assess the conditions with Fireworks Director Fortunato Foti.
We encourage all visitors to Sydney for New Year’s Eve to be mindful of the conditions and how they could impact on their health.
Watched by millions
The display is watched by a billion people worldwide, showcasing Sydney to the world as a safe, inclusive and attractive place to visit.
Sydney New Year’s Eve generates $130 million for the NSW economy and super charges our tourism industry, creating jobs and supporting countless small businesses.
The City of Sydney works closely with NSW Government agencies such as the Department of Premier and Cabinet, NSW Health, NSW Police and Fire and Rescue NSW in the lead up to the event.
We will continue to discuss weather and safety issues such as smoke haze, and how we will manage them, as we get closer to the event date.
Rather than cancelling the event, we’ve donated $620,000 to support communities and wildlife impacted by bushfire and drought, and offered our trucks and staff to help emergency services with clean-up and recovery efforts.
We are also promoting an online fundraiser for the Red Cross Disaster Recovery and Relief Fund in the lead up to and on New Year’s Eve.
During the broadcast and on the night, we will be encouraging those gathered around the harbour and watching at home to give generously.
The event will also support our official charity partner, the Refugee Council of Australia, as we begin 2020: The Year of Welcome.
The City of Sydney’s fireworks will be carbon offset. They are also biodegradable to reduce waste and environmental impact.
The event will also be greener this year, with our sites and operations using 100 per cent accredited GreenPower.
This year we will buy GreenPower certificates to the equivalent of our energy use.
These will cover 10 sites across the city, including Bicentennial and Pirrama parks and the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
The certificates will support the production of renewable energy at Sapphire Wind Farm in northern NSW.
All City of Sydney-owned properties will use energy bought with GreenPower certificates from 1 July 2020, supporting energy generated by Sapphire Wind Farm and two other renewable energy projects.
Fortunato Foti, fireworks director for Sydney NYE2019, at White Bay, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, said safety was a top priority:
Wind plays an integral part in what we do and don’t do
With a system that we use for firing the show, we’re able to reduce different types of fireworks, depending on what priority we’re given as far as the worst case scenario, so we’re able to dial it down that way.
The show would still continue, but with different elements taken out of it to reduce any risks if necessary – and that’s purely on a wind situation
The City Of Sydney also told various sources that the fireworks “are going ahead as planned”, regardless of conditions, saying scrapping the show would ultimately do more harm than good.
Lord Mayor of the City Of Sydney, Clover Moore, said all of Sydney had been “deeply saddened” by the impact of the bushfires & if there was a total fire ban on New Year’s Eve the City Of Sydney would “do what we need to do”.
Sydney’s New Year’s Eve unites people from all over the world with a message of hope for the year to come.
We have committed to harnessing the enormous power of the event to raise more money for drought and fire-affected communities, with money going to the Australian Red Cross
Also at White Bay, Sydney New Year’s Eve Head Of Audience, Tanya Goldberg, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, said that the City Of Sydney was liaising with the New South Wales Department Of Premier and Cabinet, Bureau of Meteorology, Fire and Rescue, NSW Rural Fire Service & NSW Health, she was “speaking daily” to fire departments & that a “total fire ban exemption would be allowed”:
Like everyone, we at the City of Sydney are deeply affected by what we’ve been seeing over these last months
But we are of the firm view that Sydney New Year’s Eve should not be cancelled
At this point the fireworks are proceeding as planned
Safety is our top priority and our paramount concern as we strive to deliver the event as planned.
Extreme weather requires an appropriate response
There are of course mixed views but a lot them have indicated they want to see the fireworks continue
Preparations for these celebrations began 15 months ago, which means most of the budget, largely used for crowd safety, has already been spent
Cancelling would have little practical benefit for devastated communities
Cancelling would seriously hurt Sydney businesses particularly in the wake of reports of a weaker retail season & would also ruin plans for tens of thousands of people who have come from across the country and overseas who have made their plans, booked their flights, hotels and restaurants & other arrangements for Sydney New Year’s Eve
The opportunity to come together & celebrate what is good, to express hope, a little happiness and sense of togetherness is arguably even more important than ever
It comes after nearly 4 months of bushfires including a megafire the size of Sydney itself which is also the largest forest fire in recent Australian history, resulting in a controversially held corporate Sydney Harbour fireworks display, many fireworks displays around Australia being cancelled, some of the poorest air quality Sydney has ever seen, southern road access to Sydney virtually being cut off at times & multiple petitions to cancel the event, the largest 2 having around 262,000 signatures at the time of writing.
Links to the online fundraiser will be projected onto the Sydney Harbour Bridge pylons it was announced today.
More than 86% of people were in favour of abandoning Sydney NYE2019 in favour of donating the funds to farmers in a survey conducted by The Daily Mail Australia.
The official fire danger forecast gets released tomorrow afternoon but the Midnight Fireworks depends on the forecast released on the afternoon of NYE.
We again advise people who have brought tickets for Sydney NYE events to check their refund policies in the event the iconic fireworks are cancelled or postponed to Australia Day as the City Of Sydney is the official organiser providing the fireworks for free. Tickets are usually only refunded if the actual function you are attending is cancelled or below par – not if the fireworks are cancelled or below par. Pirrama Park Wharf is probably the only exception to this so far. People who have bought tickets in National Park areas especially should be cautious. Keep an eye on the news over the 3 days for any bushfire-related updates.
This post updates.
Sources: The Sunday Telegraph, Sydney Morning Herald, 9 News, 7 News, The Daily Telegraph, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, news.com.au & The Daily Mail Australia.