6 Nov 2018

Fireworks business booming, but public split over displays

8:47 am on 6 November 2018

There were more than 100 Fire and Emergency firework-related call-outs last night, but the public is divided on whether back-yard displays should continue.

Fireworks outlet in Petone.

A fireworks outlet in Petone, Lower Hutt. Photo: RNZ / Charlie Dreaver

Firefighters say it has been the busiest Guy Fawkes since 2012.

Fire and Emergency NZ national fire risk management advisor Peter Gallagher told Morning Report that a fire on Mount Wellington in Auckland could be seen by hundreds of people.

Five crews tackled that fire which covered about 40 metres.

About half the 100 calls were between 8 and 10pm and many were to the Mt Wellington fire.

Elsewhere in the country there were about a dozen minor calls to fireworks-related incidents.

But the biggest fireworks-related blaze in terms of manpower was at Lake Hāwea near Wanaka at the weekend.

Mr Gallagher said people firing fireworks horizontally in dry and windy conditions cause danger and inconvenience.

He said the government may need to look at regulation, but international experience shows when fireworks are not on sale, more hazards can be created by home-made pyrotechnics.

Despite the call-outs business was booming yesterday for John Tafili who was selling Thumping Thunder Pyrotechnics with his family in Petone.

"We've had a lot of families who are after sparklers that we've run out of since this morning, but saying that there are a lot of teenagers who are after the big bangers," he said.

Mr Tafili said about a quarter of his customers were planning on keeping the fireworks until New Year's Eve, for when their families visit.

Despite their popularity, people around town had mixed opinions on backyard displays.

"I'm not a fan of fireworks in the backyard, we have a little dog who at this time of the year is a little shivering wreck, but if there's a big display she doesn't have to be there," Gail Rumble said.

"I'm a big kid at heart, so I'm all for it," Anton Tracey said.

Diana Fouhy said she heard loud bangs in the lead up to Guy Fawkes late at night.

"You're thinking are they sober while they're doing it? How old are they? Are they prepared? It just feels worrying and unsafe," she said.

Auckland councillor Linda Cooper said the council were asking for public feedback on whether they should go to central government to ask for a ban of private fireworks.

No caption.

Just a few hours into the evening of Guy Fawkes yesterday, Fire and Emergency services were already responding to firework-related call-outs. Photo: 123RF

She said the problem most people had with the fireworks was stockpiling.

"The issue here is no-one can be warned to make their pet safe, it could be New Year's Eve and it's near bush and it could go up in flames," she said.

But Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it was not something that was currently on the government's agenda.

"I certainly haven't taken anything under active review, I can't say whether or not the minister in her own portfolio has for any reason a trigger for her to look at the issue herself, but it is not anything the government is currently considering," she said.

Guy Fawkes will one day be phased out - Wellington mayor

Wellington Mayor Justin Lester believes Guy Fawkes will one day be no longer celebrated in New Zealand.

Wellington City Council has swapped celebrating Guy Fawkes for a public Matariki fireworks display during winter.

Mr Lester said it was an adjustment but with time people would get used to the change.

"I think slowly, but surely, New Zealand will move away from Guy Fawkes and probably look to celebrate, if they have fireworks, something like Matariki," he said.

Mr Lester said this year they had between 55,000 and 60,000 people come to the Matariki fireworks display, which showed its growing popularity.

"We decided as a council that Matariki was a much more appropriate way to celebrate fireworks in the city, in winter, where it's darker earlier as well, so it meant children could attend with their parents," he said.

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