Sydney greenlights New Year’s fireworks to show Australian ‘optimism’ in face of blazes

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Sydneys iconic New Years Eve fireworks will go ahead despite the wildfire crisis to show the world Australias resiliency, the prime minister said, while authorities on Sunday braced for conditions to deteriorate with high temperatures.

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison also announced financial support for some volunteer firefighters in New South Wales, the state worst hit by wildfires ravaging the nation.

“The world looks at Sydney every single year and they look at our vibrancy, they look at our passion, they look at our success,” he said. “In the midst of the challenges that we 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.”

The City of Sydney Council gave the green light, although fire authorities warned that the fireworks could be cancelled if catastrophic conditions are declared.

New South Wales Deputy Premier John Barilaro, for his part, said the spectacle should be called off. “The risk is too high and we must respect our exhausted volunteers,” he wrote on social media Monday.

Sydneys New Years Eve Fireworks should just be canceled, very easy decision. The risk is too high and we must respect our exhausted RFS volunteers. If regional areas have had fireworks banned, then lets not have two classes of citizens. Were all in this crisis together.

— John Barilaro MP (@JohnBarilaroMP) December 29, 2019

Canberra cancels

As the wildfire danger worsens in oppressive summer heat and pressure was building for Sydneys iconic celebrations to be scrapped, New Years Eve fireworks in Canberra were cancelled

Temperatures on Tuesday were set to hit 38°C in Australias capital city. Organisers in Canberra said other activities, including live music performances, could also be cancelled.

“It is a sensible decision for us not to proceed with the fireworks,” said the capital territorys Emergency Services Agency Commissioner Georgeina Whelan.

A petition to cancel the Sydney fireworks and use the money to fight the bushfires ringing the city has topped 260,000 signatures.

Sydney is spending AU$6.5 million (€4 million) on this years display – funds that the Change.org petition argues would be better spent on supporting volunteer firefighters and farmers suffering through a brutal drought.

The massive fireworks display on Sydney Harbour “may traumatise some people”, the petition says, “as there is enough smoke in the air”.

'Catastrophic year'

Toxic smoke haze from bushfires raging across Australia has blanketed Sydney and other major cities for weeks. Entire towns have been left in ruins by devastating blazes in worst-hit New South Wales state, where eight people have died and an area the size of Belgium burnt to cinders.

“2019 has been a catastrophic year in Australia for Floods and Fires,” the petition states. "All states should say NO to FIREWORKS.”

More than a quarter of a million people have signed a petition seeking to cancel New Years Eve fireworks in Sydney, but they will go ahead regardless. https://t.co/p0sDrvubHM

— The Australian (@australian) December 28, 2019

Morrison said that eligible volunteer firefighters would receive AU$300 (€187) a day, up to AU$6,000 (€3,745) in total, if called out to battle blazes for more than 10 days. The compensation focused on people who are self-employed or work for small and medium businesses.

“The early and prolonged nature of this fire season has made a call beyond what is typically made on our volunteer firefighters,” he said.

Morrison, who has been under pressure since taking a much-criticised family vacation to Hawaii during the wildfire crisis, announced last week that volunteer firefighters from the federal public sector will receive paid leave entitlements.

The opposition Labor party has been pressing the government to consider widespread compensation for volunteer firefighters.

“A lot of people are using up their annual leave [to fight fires] … A lot of people are just missing their families,” said Sean Warren, a volunteer firefighter for about seven years. "Theyve skipped Christmas with their families and their grandchildren. So yeah, its a wide extreme of sacrifice that people have been putting in.”

Morrison said the compensation was necessary so that the New South Wales fires commissioner is in aRead More – Source