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Editions

Fireworks are losing their mojo

01 Feb 2017

By Shane Scanlan

According to pedestrian counters, Docklands’ fireworks are losing their mojo.

Crowds were down slightly on New Years Eve but crashed about 50 per cent on Australia Day from last year’s numbers.

The City of Melbourne has pedestrian counters on NewQuay Promenade at NewQuay, Waterfront City and on the corner of Bourke St and Harbour Esplanade.

Docklands News is not suggesting that these counters have picked up all visitors but they do provide an accurate comparison between the years.

Comparisons at 11pm (when numbers are greatest) with previous New Year’s Eves show crowds were slightly down on 2015 (7112 compared with 7555).

Numbers in NewQuay have largely held up, but the Waterfront City crowds have been in decline for many years. This New Year’s Eve the counters picked up 4515 people in NewQuay, 2176 at Waterfront City and 421 outside Victoria Point.

In 2015, the comparative figures were: NewQuay – 4612; Waterfront City – 2460; and Victoria Point – 483.

Crowds peaked in Docklands for New Years Eve back in 2012 when 10,188 were counted. That year, the numbers were: NewQuay – 5389; Waterfront City – 4489; Victoria Point – 310. The Waterfront City numbers have dropped by nearly half.

Australia Day fireworks crowds are also down. Measured at 10pm (when the numbers were greatest), it appears that only half as many people visited Docklands this year.

In 2016 total numbers were 10,189 but this year only 4362 were recorded. It appears that the council’s Waterfront City pedestrian monitor has been out of action since January 9, so the real difference in crowds is not as extreme.

However, given that NewQuay numbers almost halved in 12 months (6333 in 2016 compared with 3360 in 2017), it would be fair to expect at least that drop at Waterfront City. Victoria Point numbers were up from 856 in 2016 to 1002 this year.

Given the new focus on Harbour Esplanade, it would have been reasonable to expect greater crowd growth recorded at Victoria Point.

Reports from people gathered at the front of Etihad Stadium complained that they were too close to comfortably observe the fireworks.

This year the fireworks were controversially moved off the water to being fired from inside Etihad Stadium.

Responses to the new approach have been mixed, with some saying they were adequate but most agreeing that they lacked the vitality and acoustics of Victoria Harbour.

No one who Docklands News has spoken to said the fireworks were better this year. The consensus seems to be that newcomers would have been impressed but regulars remained underwhelmed.

The City of Melbourne has not adequately explained its decision to move the fireworks from the water.

Lord Mayor Robert Doyle told Docklands Chamber of Commerce representatives last November: “We had an unfortunate couple of incidents during the winter fireworks, which is 5000 people, about panic and crush when trying to get out. On New Years Eve we have to manage 35,000 – 40,000 people down in Docklands.”

Docklands News believes the council decided to move the fireworks for other reasons and manufactured or exaggerated the story of crowd crush and panic to justify its decision.

Our best guess is that the council wanted to standardise its rooftop firing across the whole city. If true, this shows once again that the City of Melbourne has no appreciation of Docklands’ special water-based character.

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