Threat of wildfires not enough to cancel Sydney's New Year's Eve fireworks

Australian authorities say the iconic Sydney New Year's Eve fireworks will go ahead, despite calls for them to be canceled for environmental concerns.
Australian authorities say the iconic Sydney New Year's Eve fireworks will go ahead, despite calls for them to be canceled for environmental concerns.
Brendan Esposito | AP

Australian officials announced that Sydney's New Year's Eve fireworks will go ahead, despite calls for them to be canceled due to record breaking heat and a prolonged fire season.

A Change.org petition has garnered more than 250,000 signatures, calling for the government to give the money they spend on fireworks to farmers and firefighters, and saying there is "enough smoke in the air" and the fireworks may traumatize some people.

Preparations for the New Year's Eve celebration began 15 months ago and it is predicted the event will generate $130 million for the New South Wales economy, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

"Sydney is one of the first cities in the world that welcomes in the New Year and if it's safe to do so, we should continue to do it as we've done every other year," Gladys Berejiklian, premier of New South Wales told reporters.

The city will only cancel the fireworks if catastrophic conditions are declared by the New South Wales Rural Fire Service.

Temperatures on Tuesday are expected to be around 40 C or 104 F across western Sydney and in regional New South Wales, according to 7 News Australia.

The final danger rating is expected to be released between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Monday, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison recently announced financial support for some volunteer firefighters in New South Wales.

Earlier this month Clover Moore, the Sydney Lord Mayor responded to the petition saying she shares the signatories deep sympathies and "recently directed Council to donate over $600,000 to bushfire and drought relief," but the budget for the fireworks has already been spent.

"I know this isn't exactly what you would like to be hearing from me, but we can't cancel the fireworks and even if we could, doing so would have little practical benefit," Moore wrote.

Moore said that the petition has moved the council to do more. She added the fireworks will be carbon offset and are biodegradable. They will also be raising money for the Australian Red Cross Disaster Relief and Recovery fund during the broadcast.

Comments on the Change.org petition range from mad to exasperated.

"Sydney is an absolute joke your state is burning down but it's okay the fireworks can still happen. Most ridiculous government decision ever. Can't believe they are still going ahead," one commenter wrote.

"Can't we just watch a video of last year's fireworks?" Another suggested.

New South Wales, where Sydney is located, is the worst-affected state by the drought.

Rural Fire Services Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told The Associated Press 85 fires are burning across the state and almost half of them are not contained.

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