Fireworks set for new summer date

September 30, 2021 BY

Cracker: City of Ballarat councillors have decided to run the annual municipal fireworks display as part of Summer Sundays. Photo: FILE

BALLARAT’S annual fireworks display has been officially rescheduled as part of the Summer Sundays program after council voted on the matter at their scheduled meeting last Wednesday.

The decision was supported six votes to three but went against the recommendation from municipal staff.

Originally, councillors were asked to vote on a recommendation to schedule the event during the Begonia Festival.

Cr Tracey Hargreaves put forward an alternate motion for the Summer Sundays fireworks display, and said she believed residents would prefer a summertime event over the March flower festival.

Late last year, council voted in support of a recommendation put forward by the Ballarat Koorie Engagement Action Group to reschedule the fireworks from their original 26 January date, widely regarded as Survival or Invasion Day by First Nations people.

Following a recent period of community consultation, City survey data revealed out of almost 1000 respondents – noted to be a significant number by the organisation – just over 45 per cent preferred a summer display, the most selected of all options.

Just over 21 per cent of people voted for the Begonia Festival survey option. The original 26 January display date was not included in the survey.

Cr Amy Johnson said she supported Cr Hargreaves views because of the survey numbers.

“I think it’s really important when we go out to Ballarat residents and ask for feedback that we actually listen to them and take it on board and use that to inform our decisions as much as possible,” she said.

“It’s really tricky to justify going against the results of community surveys and feedback that we receive, otherwise why are we actually asking people in the first place?”

She said the Begonia Festival was an event successful in its own right, drawing 60,000 people in 2020, and the City could struggle to accommodate larger crowds.

Municipal officers first put forward the Begonia Festival fireworks recommendation because they said there could be “significant outcomes” for the community and tourism when aligning the display to a days-long event.

Next year’s Summer Sundays program of events are scheduled for 9, 16, 23 and 30 January, but no specific date for the fireworks has been chosen yet.

Councillors noted there was also a possibility to couple the display with a night market.

Councillors Belinda Coates, Ben Taylor and Mark Harris voted against the Summer Sundays scheduling.

Cr Taylor didn’t support either proposed fireworks display times and said, if given the option, some respondents to the community survey would have chosen to keep the original event date.

“We can clearly see that people wanted to press another button as an option and that’s not available and that would have been 26 January, Australia Day,” he said.

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