A petition to cancel Sydney's famous New Year's Eve fireworks and use the money to fight bush fires ringing the city has topped 260,000 signatures, but officials say the show will go on.
Sydney is spending some US$ 5 million on this year's fireworks display - funds that the Change.org petition argues would be better spent on supporting volunteer firefighters and farmers suffering through a brutal drought.
The massive fireworks display on Sydney Harbor may traumatize some people, the petition says, as there is enough smoke in the air.
Toxic smoke haze from bush fires raging across Australia has blanketed Sydney and other major cities for weeks. Entire towns have been left in ruins by devastating blazes in worst-hit New South Wales (NSW) state, where eight people have died and an area the size of Belgium has burnt to cinders.
2019 has been a catastrophic year in Australia for Floods and Fires, the petition states. All states should say no to fireworks.
A City of Sydney spokesman said that while they appreciate the concerns of the people opposed to holding the fireworks during a bush fire crisis, cancelling the celebration would have little practical benefit for affected communities.
We began preparations and planning for the NYE celebrations 15 months ago. This means most of the budget, largely used for crowd safety and cleaning measures, has already been spent, the spokesman said in a statement.
Cancelling the event would seriously hurt Sydney businesses. It would also ruin plans for tens of thousands of people from across the country and overseas who have booked flights, hotels and restaurants for New Year's Eve.
The display, watched by an estimated one billion people globally, is worth some US$ 90 million annually to the NSW economy.