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Locals push for 9.30 fireworks

03 Dec 2012

Locals push for 9.30 fireworks Image

By Bethany Williams

Docklanders are lobbying for the reinstatement of the 9.30 pm New Year’s Eve family fireworks amid speculation that the City of Melbourne’s safety concerns are unfounded.

Melbourne’s councillors approved the cancellation of the fireworks at a closed meeting in September.

The cancellation was part of a wider revamp of the City of Melbourne’s New Year’s Eve celebration.

According to the City of Melbourne, the new format was developed to address safety concerns identified by the council, risk management consultants and Victoria Police.  

However, the council refuses to release the report alleging concerns about a potential crowd crush on the Southern Cross concourse when families leaving the 9.30pm display would meet the crowd coming into Docklands for the midnight event.

A statement from Victoria Police Inspector Mick Beattie to the council confirms police support of the changes to the New Year's Eve format.

But the statement focuses predominantly on the potential for crowd-crush incidents around Flinders St, Princess Bridge and Federation Square.

The safety concerns for Docklands are only mentioned in the last sentence of the statement.

“Victoria Police is also supportive of the removal of a 9.30pm display at Docklands as the growing audience in this area is also causing safety concerns around crowd cross-over between the two displays,” the statement said.

Inspector Beattie was unable to speak with Docklands News but his colleague, Superintendent Rod Wilson, said Victoria Police’s major concern for New Year’s Eve was around Princess Bridge.

Superintendent Wilson said the concern for Docklands was about the crowd growing larger and that there was a need to eliminate the risk before it became a major issue.

According to Inspector Beattie’s statement to council, there was a need to “decentralise the audience”.

The new format is intended to push revellers out of the middle of the city to live sites, such as Docklands, on the edge of the CBD.

Superintendent Wilson confirmed that the concerns for Docklands were due to the belief that more people would head to Docklands due to the new model and therefore the safety risk would be increased.

However, residents and local businesses have denied that there was a risk of crowd-crush on the Southern Cross stadium concourse.  

President of the Docklands Community Association, Roger Gardner, said he had written to the lord mayor and all councillors on behalf of the community and had requested that the decision be reversed and that the fireworks be reinstated.

He said there had been no evidence provided to support the need for crowd management and agreed that many people who had attended the family fireworks in the past had travelled by car.

Jenni Hart runs Adventure Sails in Docklands and said her business was losing out because of the fireworks cancellation.

Adventure Sails ran a family cruise event in Docklands to coincide with the 9.30 pm fireworks but has had to cancel the event and refund customers who had already booked.

The company also runs a midnight cruise and has had customers requesting refunds due to fears the midnight fireworks would also be cancelled.

Ms Hart said the business had lost “substantial money” because of the fireworks cancellation and the reasons given for the cancellation were not justified.

“Most families drive and park at Harbour Town to avoid public transport and avoid going into the city,” Ms Hart said.

Ms Hart said she had written to every councillor about the cancellation.

She received a response from City of Melbourne city business director Martin Cutter on behalf of the councillors.

In the letter Mr Cutter said that council had a legal responsibility to deliver a safe event and that the decision was not related to cost.  

If a choice was offered the Docklands Chamber of Commerce favours the 9.30 fireworks over the midnight show.

However, Mr Cutter told the Docklands Community Forum on November 28 that this was not an option.

He said the decision was irreversible and the new policy would drive more people to Docklands but encourage them to stay until after midnight.

Mr Cutter implied that he had been trying to have the 9.30 Docklands fireworks cancelled for three years and had finally got councillors to accept that the public safety risk was too great.

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