‘The show must go on’: Why Sydney’s NYE fireworks display is too big to fail

Business leaders have defended the City of Sydney’s decision to proceed with New Year’s Eve celebrations in the face of fierce opposition to the fireworks display due to ongoing bushfire threats.

Fire authorities on Monday evening gave the all clear for the fireworks to go ahead despite Parramatta and Campbelltown being forced to cancel their shows due to a total fire ban and severe fire danger.

Business leaders have backed the decision to proceed with Sydney's fireworks display despite the bushfire crisis gripping NSW.
Business leaders have backed the decision to proceed with Sydney’s fireworks display despite the bushfire crisis gripping NSW. Credit:Dominic Lorrimer

But Sydney Business Chamber executive director Katherine O’Regan said cancelling the city’s fireworks could  negatively impact Sydney’s global standing.

“It would be unprecedented if it weren’t to go ahead. In terms of businesses this is the night of nights where they can do a significant trade,” Ms O’Regan said.


She said the city’s fireworks display, watched by up to one billion people globally, reinforces the view that “Sydney is among the top cities to come and visit”.

Former advertising executive Jane Caro said the value of the fireworks display to curating Sydney’s image was “probably priceless”.

The City of Sydney says the fireworks brings $133 million to the local economy, more than the $42 million for Lunar New Year. Vivid Sydney brings a $173 million economic benefit, although the event lasts for more than three weeks.

Anthony Haworth – general manager of Captain Cook Cruises, which has sold about 2500 seats for the Sydney Harbour fireworks – said the fireworks display is “vital” to promoting the city worldwide.

“New Year’s Eve is by far and away the most important night of the year for us – it’s an enormous revenue generator for any business in Sydney,” he said.

Mr Haworth believes it is possible to still feel empathy for the bushfire victims and firefighters while celebrating the new year.

“Everyone who comes to the city will still be thinking deeply about the rest of the country,” he said.

“The fireworks bring a lot of joy to a lot of people and they bring a lot of economic benefit to a lot of people. I don’t think it changes the fact we should be concerned and feel for our friends in the bush.”

University of Technology Sydney tourism lecturer David Beirman said the ongoing bushfire emergency made the decision of whether to proceed with the fireworks “a very vexed question”.

“If you look at it from a financial point of view it’s a no brainer – the show must go on. However there is the ethical issue of NSW and most of Australia copping these terrible bushfires,” Dr Beirman said.

Sydney’s fireworks are significant because they bring tourists to Australia “who ordinarily wouldn’t come at this time”, he said.

“They are our version of the northern lights.”

Tourism & Transport Forum chief executive Margy Osmond said the fireworks are “an iconic part of the city’s brand”.

“These bushfires have been a global story so I think it’s a tremendous opportunity to use the fireworks to generate some financial relief for the bushfires,” she said.

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