Sydney’s iconic fireworks display on New Year’s Eve will go-ahead despite calls for it to be cancelled due to the bushfire crisis.
The New South Wales (NSW) Rural Fire Service granted organisers an exemption from a total fire ban covering the region.
NSW has been ravaged by bushfires intensified by record-breaking temperatures and months of drought.
A number of fireworks displays across NSW have been cancelled.
Organisers of the Sydney display were urged to call off the demonstration and instead donate the money to farmers and the fire service.
A petition calling for the Sydney spectacle to be scrapped – saying it sent the wrong message at a time swathes of the country was suffering from bushfires – has gathered more than 270,000 signatures.
The petition said A$5.8m (£3m; $4m) was reportedly spent on fireworks in Sydney last year.
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NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro was among those calling for Tuesday’s display to be cancelled, saying it should be a “very easy decision”.
But Sydney’s lord mayor Clover Moore said doing so “would have little practical benefit”.
A decision to grant the City of Sydney council approval to hold the fireworks display was made on Monday evening.
Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to gather at the Sydney Harbour Bridge for the midnight fireworks display, a globally renowned attraction that generates millions in tourism revenue.
Which displays have been cancelled?
A popular fireworks display in Parramatta Park was cancelled by Parramatta Council on Monday after it failed to obtain an exemption due to the extreme weather forecast.
“Council was not granted an exemption to proceed with its fireworks display, due to the total fire ban in place and a range of associated risks including extreme temperatures, smoke, dust and poor air quality,” Parramatta lord mayor Bob Dwyer said.
The council said it would donate A$10,000 to the NSW RFS instead.
Other areas where fireworks displays have been cancelled or postponed include Wollongong, Maitland, Orange, Berry, Shoalhaven, Huskisson, Armidale, Port Macquarie, Liverpool, Campbelltown, and Tweed Heads.
Why are there calls to cancel fireworks displays?
In recent months, bushfires have been raging across Australia, where heatwave conditions, strong winds and drought have created dangerous conditions.
NSW – where Sydney is located – is the worst-affected state, with more than 100 fires currently burning.
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Deteriorating weather conditions are expected to worsen bushfires in the state on Tuesday, with temperatures reaching the mid-30Cs in Sydney.
These conditions, paired with smoke from the bushfires, led to calls for fireworks displays in Sydney and elsewhere in NSW to be cancelled.
The petition, titled “Say NO to FIREWORKS NYE 2019”, said the Sydney display should also be scrapped as it “may traumatise some people” who are dealing with “enough smoke in the air”.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian disagreed, but acknowledged the “suffering in the community at the moment”.
“Sydney is one of the first cities in the world that welcomes in the new year, and if it’s safe to do so, we should continue to do it as we’ve done every other year,” Ms Berejiklian said.