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Council reinstates Docklands fireworks

02 Oct 2009

(Updated story - Oct 6) - Melbourne City Councillors have reinstated the Docklands 9.15pm New Year’s Eve family fireworks following a decision in late August to cancel the show.

Councillors say they were unaware they were voting to cancel the event when the matter came before them in late August.

The decision to cancel the event had rocked Docklands residents and businesses with the president of the Docklands Chamber of Commerce Keith Rankin labeling the decision “an absolute disaster”.

“The chamber of commerce is mortified,” Mr Rankin said. “Everyone down here looks forward to it and promotes it as part of their business activities.”

“To make this decision now, when we’ve been promoting it all year and have been taking bookings is unbelievable.”

“We just don’t understand it,” Mr Rankin said. “There is no justifiable reason for it”.

Docklands restaurateur Lou Jovanovski said: “We will not give up. The excuses are just that, excuses. I do not understand how they are safe at midnight but not at 9.30? It is ridiculous.”

“Every other country, state and town in the world can achieve this but our City of Melbourne seems to have missed the boat again. We will not have the kids miss out,” Mr Jovanovski said.

In a “fact sheet” sent to Docklands businesses, the council said Southern Cross Station could not cope with New Year’s Eve crowds.  “Public safety must outweigh all commercial endeavours or considerations,” the council said.

But the president of the Docklands Community Association Roger Gardner said: “The reasons given are public safety apparently related to size of the audience and rail transportation. To the best of our knowledge there have not been any problems in either way.”

“No overcrowding has previously been evident or reported and the crowds have been well behaved. In terms of public transport, we believe from discussions with the police and others that public transport including the trains coped well. We also believe that there have been no safety problems. We are therefore wondering on what the decision was based.”

“Removing the event would fly in the face of all the effort being put in to promoting Docklands for tourism and as a key place for staging events, as well as a leading restaurant and other business area,”
Mr Gardner.

City councillors say they did not realise they were canceling the Docklands event when they voted to move the CBD 9.15pm show to Yarra Park.

The chairman of the Docklands Co-ordination Committee, Cr Kevin Louey, said the report prepared by council staff and used by councillors to make their decision on August 24 did not say that the 9.15 family show would be scrapped.

“I’ve had another look at the report and it didn’t say they (the Docklands 9.15pm show) were included or not included,” he said. “We will fight to put it back in.”

Cr Louey said the family fireworks at Docklands cost only $25,000 out of a New Year’s Eve budget of nearly $1.5 million.

“Because the infrastructure for the midnight show is already there, it will cost them peanuts to put on the early show,” Cr Louey said.

Cr Peter Clarke agreed that it was never the intention of councillors that the Docklands event be cancelled. He said he supported its retention and was confident that, unless police had safety concerns, the family fireworks would proceed.

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