ScoMo backs fireworks, despite fire fears
Sydney's world-famous fireworks will go ahead even in severe fire danger conditions, the City of Sydney Council has confirmed in a press conference this morning.
It's a move that Prime Minister Scott Morrison supports, despite uncertainty from the Rural Fire Service about the wisdom of such a move.
"We can't cancel," City of Sydney said in a statement.
Severe fire danger is predicted on New Year's Eve, with temperatures forecast to soar to 35C in the city and 45C in the western suburbs. Strong northerly winds are expected to shift to southerly late in the day.
Despite the total fire ban, Sydney's skyline will still be lit up thanks to an exemption made by the Rural Fire Service and NSW Fire and Rescue.
"At this point the fireworks are proceeding as planned," Sydney New Year's Eve head of audience Tanya Goldberg told reporters today.
For the iconic end of year fireworks, a "total fire ban exemption would be allowed", Ms Goldberg said.
But Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons doesn't share the City of Sydney's certainty.
"If I determine it to be too risky … (then) where necessary, we won't allow them to go ahead", he said.
"We are expecting the southerly change to move through the coast, impact into the Sydney basin around about 7 in the evening. We are mindful of the volatility of a southerly," Mr Fitzsimmons told reporters today.
"We do need to give due consideration to the variety of other festivities that are undertaken across the broader geographic areas of New South Wales.
"What we're not into giving exemptions for is the backyard permits, where there is fireworks operating in people's homes or the local park."
SCOMO BACKS FIREWORKS AMID CONCERNS
Despite bushfire fears, Prime Minister Scott Morrison wants to see fireworks go head on Sydney Harbour.
"On New Year's Eve, the world looks at Sydney. Every single year," he told reporters today. "And they look at our vibrancy, they look at our passion, they look at our success.
"And so in the midst of the challenges that we have face, subject to the safety considerations, I can think of no better time to express to the world just how optimistic and positive we are as a country."
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian echoed Mr Morrison's thoughts.
"I would support the efforts in keeping the fireworks going," she said.
"I appreciate there's a lot of anxiety in the community, there is a lot of fear, depending on where you live about what's happening in the community at the moment.
"But the best thing we can do is to stay strong and resilient … We will get through these times, as difficult as they are.
"I think it is important to send a message to the world, so long as it is safe to do so … we will keep doing what we do normally."
DIALLED DOWN FIREWORKS THIS YEAR
Fortunato Foti, who has directed Sydney's New Year's Eve Fireworks for more than 20 years, plans to "dial down" celebrations if weather conditions appear too severe.
"Wind plays an integral part in what we do and don't do," he said.
"We're able to reduce different types of fireworks. So we are able to dial it down in that way (if we must)."
THE SHOW MUST GO ON
The City of Sydney has maintained the fireworks will go ahead, regardless of conditions.
"We appreciate the concerns people have around holding the Sydney New Year's Eve fireworks while large parts of Australia deal with bushfires and drought," the council said in a statement.
"But we can't cancel the New Year's Eve celebrations.
"It would have little practical benefit for affected communities."
The council's statement follows a report in The Sunday Telegraph this morning that said crisis talks were held between the Department of Premier and Cabinet, the council, the Rural Fire Service and NSW Police yesterday to discuss how Tuesday's extreme fire danger would impact the fireworks.
The report said the event could be cancelled at the last minute if fire conditions were deemed "catastrophic" on New Year's Eve.
However, the council has stressed this morning it would "continue to liaise" with the NSW Government and the RFS "to determine the safest way to proceed with the event" if a total fire ban was declared.
Goldberg said she was "speaking daily" to fire departments.
"In the event of high winds, the City of Sydney will assess the conditions with fireworks director Fortunato Foti," the council said.
The council said too much planning has gone into the fireworks for them to be called off at the 11th hour.
"We began preparations and planning for the NYE celebrations 15 months ago," the statement read.
"This means most of the budget, largely used for crowd safety and cleaning measures, has already been spent.
"Cancelling the event would seriously hurt Sydney businesses. It would also ruin plans for tens of thousands of people from across the country and overseas who would have booked flights, hotel and restaurants for New Year's Eve."
The council said it had listened to the concerns of those worried about the fires and announced it had donated $620,00 to "support communities and wildlife impacted by bushfire and drought, and offered our trucks and staff to help emergency services with clean-up and recovery efforts".
The council will also promote the Red Cross Disaster Recovery and Relief Fund during the ABC broadcast of the fireworks and links to the online fundraiser will be displayed on the Sydney Harbour Bridge pylons.
Lord Mayor Clover Moore said all of Sydney had been "deeply saddened" by the impact of the bushfires.
"Sydney's New Year's Eve unites people from all over the world with a message of hope for the year to come," she said.
"We have committed to harnessing the enormous power of the event to raise more money for drought and fire-affected communities, with money going to the Australian Red Cross."