Sydney’s Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, may cancel this year’s New Year’s Eve fireworks display to avoid large gatherings where physical distancing would be near impossible to enforce, according to a report published by the Sydney Morning Herald. Moore has said that staging the world-renowned celebrations, which are broadcast around the world, “may not be responsible” given the ongoing health crisis in New South Wales.
While it is still three and a half months until the clock strikes midnight on January 1 2021, preparations are usually already underway for the ambitious fireworks spectacular, which typically features more than 100,000 pyrotechnics. According to the Herald, council officials from across Sydney are demanding a decision on whether the display will go ahead so they can begin the process of devising suitable crowd management strategies in line with the state's current safety regulations, should the event be allowed to go ahead.
Moore has said that the $6.5 million fireworks display will be called off if the state’s health and police authorities cannot guarantee that such an event can be held safely, although she conceded that such a decision “would be incredibly sad”. The state government has said that a decision to cancel the display would ultimately be left up to the City of Sydney and local councils.
This is the second consecutive year Sydney’s New Year’s Eve celebrations have faced cancellation. In 2019, organisers faced pressure to cancel the fireworks in response to the bushfire disaster that was still raging across the state at the time. Despite this, the fireworks proceeded as normal and more than a million people still poured into Central Sydney and across the harbour foreshore to ring the new year within sight of the Harbour Bridge.
According to the Herald’s report, one plan being considered would still allow a fireworks display to go ahead, but from a secret location where it could be filmed and televised. This would avoid the issue of crowds and encourage people to stay home instead of congregating at potentially high-risk events. The City of Sydney is currently working with the state government to assess if the usual NYE celebrations could be adapted to allow for physical distancing and other public health protocols, as well as the viability of other major upcoming events in the city’s calendar, such as Christmas activities and next year's lunar new year festivities.