THE HERALD’S OPINION: Time for Newcastle to get more bang for its buck

Bridging the gap between 9pm and midnight will be a key concern if Newcastle is to reintroduce late-night fireworks on New Year’s Eve.
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Newcastle City Council axed its midnight pyrotechnics display in 2013, opting instead to focus ratepayer funds on the 9pm show.

‘‘We have found in past years that midnight is far too late for families, and everyone else preparing to watch the clock tick over to the new year is usually settled in at other venues by then,’’ a council spokeswoman said at the time.

Four years later,Newcastle state MP Tim Crakanthorp has called for a return to two fireworks displays, and deputy mayor Declan Clausen says the idea is worth revisiting.

As Mr Crakanthorp suggests, celebrating the new year before 12 o’clock takes some of the fizz out of the occasion.

Sunday’sevent cost the council $190,000, including $45,000 for the fireworks themselves. Adding three hours and another load of crackers would increasethe bill considerably, and it is up to council staff and the city’s elected representatives to weigh this expenditure against other needs.

The council’s 2017-18 budgethas a forecast operating surplus of $4.8 million, but it has some expensive items on its to-do list, including flood mitigation works at Wallsend, beach erosion at Stockton, a solar farm at Summerhill and moving offices to Newcastle West.

The council and the state government’s Revitalising Newcastle program funded more activities than usual at Sunday’s event, which attracted a crowd estimated at more than 20,000.

If many of those revellers are to stick around for another three hours next year, they will need to be entertained and transported safely.

Both Mr Crakanthorp and Cr Clausen suggested midnight fireworks were something befitting an “emerging global city” like Newcastle.

Setting aside the aspirational language, it is worth pointing out that other regional cities, including Geelong, Cairns and Townsville, staged evening and midnight fireworks to welcome the new year. The Gold Coast hadfour lots of midnight fireworks, at Coolangatta, Currumbin, Broadbeach and Surfers Paradise.

A clear majority of respondents to a Newcastle Herald online poll voted in favour of resuming midnight fireworks on New Year’s Eve.

If that can be achieved with help from state funds and private sponsorship, it won’t be difficult to justify.

ISSUE: 38,688.

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