Over the years, Sydney Harbour NYE fireworks have reached the epitome of outstanding reputation. It is watched by 1 billion people globally and is a significant proofpoint to reinforce the message of Sydney being one the top cities to visit. It has been argued that the value of the fireworks display to curating Sydney's image was "probably priceless". But I beg to differ.

Unfettered by the growing growl of public outrage, Sydney went ahead with the most controversial New Year’s Eve fireworks, while many parts of our country were (and still are) being destroyed by ravaging, deadly bushfires. 

People willingly and purposefully detonating explosives in the name of pure entertainment felt gauche, insensitive, of poor taste and frankly, insulting in light of the loss and devastation. Let alone that firefighters are risking their lives every day. The bad taste in my mouth still lingers.

The last NYE fireworks came with a hefty pricetag and has sent a strong message about Sydney to the rest of the world. It will probably go down as the most memorable Sydney NYE celebrations in history, and for the wrong reasons.

On December 31, 2019, lives were lost, homes were destroyed, thousands of families with kids were forced to evacuate their homes and shelter on a jetty waterfront while some bravely stayed to try to defend their homes. Parts of NSW saw apocalyptic scenes with glowing red skies and pitch darkness at noon, while firefighters were risking their lives to save people, homes, properties, wildlife. Absolute heroes.

Despite the total fire ban, Sydney’s skyline was still lit up thanks to an exemption made by the Rural Fire Service and NSW Fire and Rescue. The City of Sydney decided too much planning had gone into the fireworks and cancelling the event would seriously hurt Sydney businesses and be an inconvenience to tens of thousands of people who have booked flights, hotels and restaurants for New Year’s Eve. All while the state, the country is burning.

To soften the blow and to "minimise" collateral reputation damage, the council donated $620,000 to “support communities and wildlife impacted by bushfire and drought”.  They also promoted the Red Cross Disaster Recovery and Relief Fund during the ABC broadcast of the fireworks and successfully raised $2 million.

It is all well and good, but where’s the humanity and the solidarity as a country? Sometimes it’s not just about the money. There were numerous petitions pleading for common sense and common decency for the $6.5 million event to be cancelled for various reasons – financial, poor air quality, risks, etc. But all fell into deaf ears. 

The fireworks may have generated $133 million for the local economy but after this year's celebrations, this might be the only way the Sydney Harbour NYE fireworks is perceived by the rest of the world. Purely for financial gain regardless of what the nation is going through.

It will take a lot for the City of Sydney council to make up for this faux pas. Next time do better. Be better.

The Red Cross set up an emergency fund specifically for bush fire victims. You can donate here: https://www.redcross.org.au/campaigns/disaster-relief-and-recovery-new-years-eve#donate