Fireworks – fun for all …but costly!

I live in a regional area, one where it is likely to be raining around the start of the year. So New Years fireworks suffer from the weather and frankly, the budget. Have you seen the New Years fireworks in Sydney, London, Tokyo or New York? They put on spectacular sound and light shows, often with clever themes, for both live and television audiences. These firework displays are replayed many times around the world as news items in the New Years roundup. The same New Years fireworks in a regional area are good but not great and definitely not AWESOME!

Does it exercise your mind as to how much these pyrotechnic extravaganzas cost and who pays for them? In 2009, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, in Sydney the five tonnes of fireworks and no doubt the expertise to plan how to set them off cost $5,000,000! That includes 7 minutes for the family fireworks at 9 pm followed by the super sized 12 minute display at midnight – a mere $263,000 a minute! Although as the Sydney New Year’s Eve Creative Director pointed out, that is only around $4 for each of the 1.5 million spectators estimated to have staked out harbour side vantage points. Which means the TV viewers got it all for free!

Seriously though, who does pick up the tab? Well, for the year 2000 Sydney New Years event I have the answer, in writing. I don’t recall the cost of the fireworks back then but because 2000 was a much anticipated year, the cost ran into millions. The plans and the cost were announced in mid 1999. I know this because on 6 July 1999, I wrote three letters, one each to the Australian Federal Government, the New South Wales Government and the Sydney City Council. I was seeking who was in charge and why they were spending so much.

Some weeks later I started receiving replies. First from the Australian Government: no it is not us but perhaps you should check with the NSW State Government. Next from the NSW Government: no it is not us but perhaps you should check with the Sydney City Council. I have paraphrased their responses but that was the gist.

Finally I received a letter from the Office of the Lord Mayor of Sydney. It says in part:

“Funding for the celebrations is largely from private sponsorship. The City of Sydney underwrites the event and the State Government supports it bt running public transport at an enhanced level.”

Furthermore I had not considered the benefits of the New Years fireworks.

“the celebrations are important to Sydney for a number of reasons”

  • they are broadcast around the world, providing millions of dollars worth of promotion for Sydney;
  • they allow Sydneysiders a time to reflect and feel proud of their lifestyle and city;
  • the economic benefit to the centre of the city has been estimated in previous years to be more than $25 million;
  • the celebrations provide a focus for revelry on New Year’s Eve that can be controlled. This results in fewer incidents occurring. Research from around the world finds that the best crowd management strategy is the provision of entertainment.”

So, we are all paying through a bit extra placed on the goods and services that we buy from the “sponsors”; we should be grateful for the warm inner glow that we get from seeing the Harbour Bridge alight with big sparklers – no doubt even if we are watching it on TV; if we think REALLY HARD it MUST be making a PROFIT; and having a common focal point means we are all better behaved!

So now you know how it was done in 2000.

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