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Hopes raised for water fireworks

28 Feb 2019

Hopes raised for water fireworks Image

By Shane Scanlan

Many Docklanders were delighted in February to see fireworks and dragon boat racing back where they belong – on the water in Victoria Harbour.

On February 4, a spectacular fireworks display was shot off a barge in Victoria Harbour, just as it used to be on New Year’s Eves before the City of Melbourne stopped the practice in 2016.

An interesting aspect of this event was that it was a private show for Chinese New Year and it came as a surprise to most people.

The City of Melbourne (CoM) had been advised but appears to have played no role and a council permit was not required because it was not a land-based event.

Parks Victoria issued a Recreation Activity Event (Bays and Waterways) permit to the fireworks company ShowFX Australia and supervised the event, including providing three boats to enforce an exclusion zone.

The Docklands Chamber of Commerce was particularly delighted with the event as it has consistently maintained that Docklands fireworks should be launched from the water.

Chamber president Johanna Maxwell believes the February 4 event has set a precedent and makes it more difficult for the city to continue to refuse to return the fireworks to the water.

“This leaves the door open,” Mrs Maxwell said. “It shows that there is no particular danger associated with waterborne pyrotechnics.”

ShowFX director Allan Speigel agrees, adding that waterborne fireworks were far safer than shooting from rooftops.

“I mean, if they fall on buildings with cladding, what’s going to happen,” he asked. “The council is scared someone is going to fall in the water, but look what happens in Sydney Harbour when they have half a million people lining the harbour.”

Mr Speigel said a firework mishap had resulted in a 1.5 metre hole being blown in the Marvel Stadium roof.

With the council effectively sidelined from water events, Mrs Maxwell has flagged the possibility of locals hosting their own fireworks events without council permits.

Mr Speigel said the February 4 event cost about $25,000+GST – close to $10,000 to Parks Victoria and about $15,000 for eight minutes of spectacular fireworks.

“I’m not saying the chamber would do this, but the way seems clear for businesses acting independently to get something happening,” Mrs Maxwell said.

But the council has ruled out New Year’s Eve fireworks returning to the water, but says it may consider it for smaller events.

“Future New Year’s Eve fireworks will not be returned to the harbour,” a spokesperson said. “However, for events that attract less patrons to the precinct, water-based fireworks and water-based activities may be supported.”

Mrs Maxwell said: “I wonder what would happen if someone collected $25,000 from local stakeholders and went to Parks Victoria for a permit for 9.30 fireworks from the water?”

She said the loss of the 9.30pm Docklands New Years Eve family fireworks in 2012 was a bitter blow that local businesses were still reeling from.

Mrs Maxwell said it was great to see a dragon boat regatta return to Victoria Harbour on February 15 and 16.

“The dragon boats went to country Victoria after losing patience with the authorities here in Melbourne,” she said. “I don’t know what has changed, but it sure looks good.”

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