For more than 15 years the City of Canning has been hosting its annual New Year’s Day fireworks event, but last week council decided the event will not go ahead this year.
The New Year’s Day event, held on Shelley foreshore, attracts the largest visitor numbers of all city-led events, with about 16,000 people attending in 2020.
The decision was made in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the uncertainty around social distancing requirements, increased risk and financial considerations.
But with the state government announcing on August 18 that Phase Four restrictions (which should see an end to the end two-metre-squared rule) would be extended and Phase Five will tentatively start on October 24, the city said it would need to keep attendance to a maximum of 7000 people.
City officers developed a scaled-down events program for the 2020-2021 financial year, excluding the city’s traditional and well attended New Year’s Day event.
Because of the size, nature and risk associated with the event, the city was required to engage with an external event management, and in order to proceed with next year’s event, the city needed to decide on a third-party-management company before September 1, 2020.
Ten councillors voted in favour with councillor Ben Kunze voting against.
Councillor Lindsay Holland spoke in favour of the officer’s recommendation not to proceed with the fireworks.
“It’s really saddening that we’ve come to this stage where we are going to have to do this, but this is also in light of what the announcement was today (August 18),” he said.
“I think it would be very irresponsible at the moment if we put a lot of money into this, and if things turned sour then we would have to postpone it even if it is a month, week or day before the event.
“We’ve been told by the administration that we have to put things in process now that means spending a lot of money, and it is going to be a hugely unfortunate thing but I just don’t think we can take the sovereign risk here.
“I just don’t see it happening.
“The Royal Show has been cancelled too, which I find disturbing as well for the same reasons as this, but I think it is quite prudent on us to think about the safety of our residents and the people that visit our city, but also it is a budgetary thing here, it is not a good idea to be spending this when we have no idea what the situation is going to be like.”
Despite the event not going ahead this year, as part of the officer recommendation, the chief executive will place the New Year’s Day event on the draft calendar of events for 2022, and the city will increase the delivery of localised neighbourhood events, partnering with local community groups to foster local connections and celebrate Canning’s diversity.
However, councillor Ben Kunze spoke against the officer recommendation during council and said people needed something to look forward to.
“It is been a terrible year and the New Year’s Day event is a feature of the calendar, I would say it is the most successful event that we hold,” he said.
“We need something to get people spirits up and something to look forward to and welcome 2021, given how bad 2020 has been.
“At this point in time we have not had community transmission in four months and whilst it is been pushed back, stage five is expected to come in effect in late October and life is relatively normal here in WA with the toughest border rules in the country.
“I believe that we need to hope for the best and plan for the worst.
“And in saying that we should still aim to have the event but work with the vendors to reduce the financial risk.”
Mr Kunze said he had spoken to the man who launched the Canning fireworks for more than 20 years, who said he would need at least a month to cancel the event with minimum costs imposed.
“Whilst the entire cost of the event is upwards of $170,000, I would suspect given on the discussion that I had with the man that puts on our fireworks, we wouldn’t need to risk that full amount and it could be substantially lower in these uncertain times,” he said.
“It is in the vendors interest for us to look to proceed and to share that some of that financial risk.”
After this month’s decision not to proceed with the event, the city’s budget deficit position will be reduced by $170,000.
In 2020 the city spent $141,931 and received a $20,000 Lotterywest grant.
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