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Fireworks finale .. The sky lit up at the end of the Christmas Celebration Night in Rangiora on Friday. Waimakariri District councillor Paul Williams is happy with organised displays, but wants private sales banned, or at least limited, in the district.PHOTO: SHELLEY TOPP

 

By RACHEL MACDONALD

A litany of woes stemming from fireworks has prompted Waimakariri District councillor Paul Williams to pursue a ban on their sale in the district.

The district did not emerge unscathed from the traditional sale and use of fireworks around Guy Fawkes Day.

There was a house fire in Kaiapoi, a horse euthanised in Oxford, thousands of dollars in vet bills racked up by owners seeking treatment for injured dogs and cats, and spikes in after-hours emergency treatment for injured people.

There was also the mess from used fireworks and extra stress placed on volunteer fire personnel.

These are just a few of the reasons Cr Williams intends tabling a motion during the December council meeting to seek approval for staff to investigate whether it is possible to ban, or at least limit, the sale of fireworks in the district.

His initiative comes as another Rangiora resident, Arthur Linnell, in a completely separate campaign, launched a public petition on the same issue.

Between the signatures flooding in to the Rangiora, Kaiapoi and Oxford libraries, and the sheaf of emails on Cr Williams’ printer – including from the SPCA, which is working with the Auckland City Council on a similar project – it seems the idea has its supporters.

“In my personal view, as you see all over the news and social media, there are too many idiots out there,” Cr Williams says.

“Again, this year, we’ve had young people in cars shooting fireworks at each other, at properties, and at animals. Why do we give them the means to do this?” he asks.

His idea is that all fireworks displays, including backyard ones, would be council pre-approved and controlled events.

“At the moment, although the dates of sale for fireworks is covered by legislation, anyone can let them off at any time of the day or night, and at any time of the year,” he says.

“People hang on to them for New Year’s Eve, for example; and later into the summer, potentially in the middle of the restricted fire season or in an outright fire ban.”

He envisages a scenario where people are able to hold private fireworks events with permission from the council, which would mean the weather would have been assessed, and there might be restrictions on timing, soneighbours are not up all night worrying.

He says he is unsure of the viability or legality of a bylaw limiting the sale and use of fireworks in the district, or, even if such a ban were possible, what the approval and licensing process would look like.

If his motion is adopted by the council, he would like answers to such questions delivered by staff to the council’s March 2019 meeting.

“Any such bylaw, if it were possible, would also have to go out for full public
consultation too,” he says.

“And if it were passed, the council would also need to be wholehearted in its support of licensed fireworks displays by approved operators, such as the annual event at Woodford Glen, even to the point of subsidising
them.”

Alternatively, if the sale of fireworks cannot be legally banned, perhaps the council could look to limit all firework use to within two days of Guy Fawkes, so people can plan how to keep their homes and animals safe, he says.

“It’s a case of working out what the public wants. However, to date, I haven’t had a single person come to me with negative feedback.

And if we can get this happening, other councils might follow suit. It could be
the start of something bigger.”