By ALLISON HORE
After months of debate Sydney’s New Years Eve fireworks are set to go ahead, albeit in a more condensed form.
On Thursday the City of Sydney handed the reins of the event over to the NSW Government, who will also be footing the bill for the event. Ms. Moore said it would be impossible for the council to manage the event under the current public health orders.
“Only the State Government can manage the increased health, transport and crowd management challenges during the pandemic,” she said.
“The minister has assured me that the State Government will take full responsibility for planning and preparations for the fireworks and crowd management, safety, traffic and transport and is prepared to cancel the event if there is a spike in COVID cases.”
NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian announced on Friday that the fireworks display would be shortened from its usual 12 minute runtime and would be centralised to the Sydney Harbour Bridge rather than launched from several points. The 9pm family fireworks would not be going ahead.
Last year the Sydney Harbour fireworks cost a whopping $6.5m to put on and generated an estimated $130m for the state’s economy. With the show shortened, fewer viewing areas, and only one set of fireworks, it is expected to be considerably cheaper this year. This will also mean less economic advantage for running the event, but Ms. Berejiklian said the fireworks this year would be “largely symbolic” rather than a tourist drawcard.
“I do feel it’s important for the state, and the nation because it’s really a national symbol that’s beamed around the world … it’s almost our contribution to the world,” Ms. Berejiklian said
Earlier this month Sydney’s Lord Mayor Clover Moore said she thought holding the NYE fireworks would pose too much of a risk to the community.
“I just think it will be too difficult,” she said.
“We could not handle another lockdown in the city of Sydney.”
Traditionally the Sydney Harbour Fireworks display attracts millions of spectators, including international visitors, to Sydney’s foreshore areas. Some of these visitors set up camp at vantage points days before the fireworks are set to start.
This year, Tourism Minister Stuart Ayres said that the majority of people would be watching the fireworks from home and only people with tickets to specific events would be allowed access to the Harbour foreshore area. Travelling and public gatherings will also be restricted in other areas across the city, with police stationed on transport routes as well as other vantage points ready to fine people who do not comply with social distancing.
“It’s not going to be open slather with everyone being able to come into the city,” Mr. Ayres said.
“And we fundamentally believe people won’t travel into the city in the numbers they have done in the past.”
Given Sydney is one of the first major cities to ring in the new year, the government hopes the fireworks will be a “symbol of hope” for the new year, broadcast to viewers all around the world. Last year, an estimated 1 billion people worldwide watched the Sydney Harbour fireworks on TV.
“It‘s our contribution to the world and a thank you to all the frontline workers. I want all of us to think about those people who’ve helped us during the year,” Ms. Moore said in Thursday’s press conference.