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Editions

FIREWORKS STITCH-UP

28 Sep 2016

FIREWORKS STITCH-UP Image

By Shane Scanlan

Docklands may well have seen its last Victoria Harbour based New Year’s Eve fireworks if the City of Melbourne has its way.

Council officers are working towards an alternative New Year’s Eve display and Docklands waterways are not part of it.

Councillors are defending the plan, citing safety concerns as the justification.

Lord Mayor Robert Doyle told Docklands Chamber of Commerce representatives at the September 20 Future Melbourne Committee meeting that the council was acting on the advice of Victoria Police.

He said there was an “incident” of crowd crush as people attempted to leave the Docklands Friday night winter fireworks.  However, local police command contacted by Docklands News knew nothing about this.

Cr Doyle undertook to reveal the identity of the specific police advisers, but council staff have since refused to do this.  

Almost a week after Docklands News’ initial inquiry, police media said: “The New Year’s Eve Safety and Emergency Management Planning Committee has recommended changing the location of the Docklands NYE fireworks. The committee recommended the fireworks be moved from floating pontoons to the top of surrounding buildings.”

“This decision was based on concerns regarding the safety of those in attendance. Having the fireworks on pontoons encouraged patrons to surge toward the waterfront, placing them in danger of falling in and presenting other mass crowd safety issues.”

“Significant construction work in the area also impacted upon the decision.”

Docklands News believes there was no crowd crush incident and this story is being used to justify a pre-determined position of council officers.  

In late July, the council told Docklands News it was looking to move the fireworks because the Waterfront City piazza was no longer available as a live site.  There was no mention of safety concerns.

The latest fireworks blow is remarkably similar to the method the council used to justify the cancellation of the 9.30 New Year’s Eve fireworks in 2012.

The council then claimed that a risk assessment concluded that crowds exiting and entering Docklands between the two sessions would result in a crush incident.

Then, like now, it is unwilling to offer any specific evidence of danger.

Cr Doyle, on the other hand, is convinced that, because the Piazza is no longer available, people are in danger.

He said there were only 5000 people in attendance on the night of the alleged “crowd crush” and asked how Docklands could possibly cope with 30,000 or 40,000 people.

The Docklands Chamber of Commerce points out that Docklands has 7km of waterfront, with dozens of entry and exit points.  But this logic appears to be falling on deaf ears.

The chamber is furious that the council is planning to take away the fireworks.  Chamber president Johanna Maxwell is so cross, she has offered herself as a candidate for this month’s election.

For probity reasons, she is leaving the talking to executive officer Shane Wylie, who said the council’s case simply lacked logic or common sense.

“This secret plan is so bad on so many levels,” Mr Wylie said. “I’m not sure when they planned to tell the businesses around here who have been taking New Year’s Eve bookings all year?”

“Everyone is trying to guess the real reason for the cancellation, with one suggestion that the contractor doesn’t want to do it anymore.”

“That explanation, at least, would make more sense than what the council is saying.”

Chamber executive members Kebrasca King, Paul Salter and Josephine Tan all questioned the councillors at the September 20 meeting.

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