Sydney without its annual pyrotechnic binge (aka the NYE Fireworks) is like Donald Trump without his fake tan, the Royal family without systemic dysfunction or the New York Post without the rantings of Miranda Devine. Okay, the analogies display where my prejudices lie but they also extend to the almost primal fascination some people have with fireworks.
That said we are currently getting mixed messages as to whether the normal $6.5 million festival of the cracker will proceed this year. The Lord Mayor Clover Moore has already suggested it might be “irresponsible” noting:
“It would be incredibly sad if Sydney New Year’s Eve cannot go ahead, but that is a real possibility we’re facing. The community’s health and safety is paramount and it may not be responsible to encourage large crowds to our foreshore.”
Her concerns seemed to be more towards the social distancing factor rather than the enormous spend at a time when so many people are doing it incredibly tough. One of the reasons for the extravagance, trotted out each year, is that the fireworks bring thousands of tourists to Sydney and inject millions of dollars into the local economy. Well I have news for the tourist bosses – nobody is coming this year, either from overseas and more than likely from a number of the other Australian states.
Whilst the Lord Mayor has expressed her COVID concerns regarding the fireworks, others such as NSW Tourism Minister Stuart Ayres have suggested that the New Year’s Eve celebrations should go ahead “after such a putrid 2020.” It’s that feelgood factor we crave, like a 12-minute crack cocaine rush, followed by the grim reality of a shattered economy as we all wake up in 2021.
The problem that the State Government and all the various councils involved have is of course when to either commit or pull the plug. They could take a punt and green light the event, hoping that by the end of December there were minimal COVID cases or that a miracle vaccine was available. The likelihood is no vaccine as well as further spikes and clusters with many of the current crowd restrictions still in place.
There will no doubt be a toing and froing between the various forces, notably those who see an economic and public relations gain from the midnight merriment going ahead and those that regard it as either a health risk or an obscene waste of public funds in dire economic times.
Those grinch like firework haters like myself, as we as phonophobiacs and pets across the metropolitan area will take some joy if the plug is indeed pulled, and even some minor satisfaction if the usual display is reduced to a more token (and less costly) event.
Given the current climate many people will be busting to let off some steam and soothe their anxiety on NYE. Now is the time that the various government bodies should be looking towards some creative alternatives rather than lining Sydney Harbour with hundreds of thousands of coughing, sneezing, nose dribbling people.
Kids love fireworks and maybe we could revive, for one night only, the old cracker bags that Coles and Woolies used to flog in less enlightened times. These could be distributed free to needy families and the sight of a couple of flower pots and catherine wheels lighting up the backyard would soon displace the disappointment of the harbourside binge.
TV stations could be encouraged to run a repeat of last year’s fireworks – let’s face it, they look pretty the much the same every year. And the State Government could buy unlimited time on Zoom for the night so everybody could hold their own knees up cyber party with some computer generated fireworks to inject a bit of much needed gee whiz.
There’s also the rather radical suggestion that we cancel NYE altogether, encouraging most of Sydney to hit the sack around 10pm, waking up the first day of 2021 with both a clear head and the determination to face what is bound to be a stinker of a year.