By JAMES HARRISON
City of Sydney Councillor Craig Chung has put forth a motion to replace the New Year’s Eve fireworks with silent, non-incendiary alternatives that do not risk starting fires or stressing family pets with loud noises.
This motion, which was originally deferred from earlier this year to this month, has come after the summer’s catastrophic bushfires, with many local government councils looking for safer alternatives that still create the spectacle of the fireworks.
Alternatives to the fireworks
“People were calling for a change and I looked at this and I thought, well, why are we exploding fireworks in the sky when there are plenty of other alternatives to consider?” Chung told the ABC.
Some of these possible alternatives include drone and laser shows, which Chung cites as being successful in instances such as the annual Vivid festival of lights and the Superbowl (American football’s annual championship).
However, Chung also suggests a hybrid display in conjunction with fireworks could work effectively to create the same atmosphere as what attracts tens of thousands of tourists to the harbour sands each year.
The recent call for alternatives was mainly a reaction to the recent extreme bushfires. A petition on Change.org received over 300,000 signatures to give the 5.8 million dollars spent on Sydney’s New Year celebration fireworks to farmers, firefighters and animal carers.
Could these alternatives work?
Many are sceptical of whether drone or laser shows would have the same visual appeal as the fireworks.
“I looked at the best practice around the world and it seems to me that there are a number of ways in which people are doing their aerial displays,” said Chung.
Tech giant, Intel, used 1,218 lightweight drones for the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics opening to display a dove, a snowboarder and the Olympic rings.
A year earlier Lady Gaga’s Superbowl half time show used 300 drones to create an American flag behind her. In July 2018 Intel used 1,500 drones to create a light show that mimicked fireworks in California.
These displays were all met with positive reception, however, could a drone or laser show match the intensity of the Sydney fireworks?
Nick Smith, the director and co-founder of Drones for Hire, welcomes drone and laser shows and says people and communities are looking for something new in terms of public entertainment displays. According to Smith the shows typically utilise 50 to 500 drones set to music. The aforementioned shows however would be considered on a similar scale as the Sydney New Year’s Eve display.
Safer versions of fireworks called close-proximity fireworks are what Clive Featherby, the president of the Australasian Pyrotechnics Association has described as “very spectacular.” They are less noisy, do not produce smoke or debris and are much more environmentally-friendly.
Featherby also said lasers “just don’t cut it on their own,” and that they can be more expensive and not as impressive. He added that drones can only be seen at a close range and hence the display would not have the same effect as the fireworks.