The National Party leader doesn’t want fireworks banned. PAT PILCHER ponders the political wisdom the latest Simon Bridges rant.
With a general election looming in 2020, National party leader Simon Bridges seems bizarrely determined to alienate as many potential voters as possible. His latest ham-fisted attempt at dog-whistle politics saw him saying that Kiwis shouldn’t lose the ‘right’ to let off fireworks in their own back yards.
Major retailer Hell Pizza backed away from selling fireworks last year after a public outcry as petitions demanding an end to fireworks garnered numerous signatures. In light of this, Bridges’ latest outburst seems out of step with the public’s thinking.
While the Government has indicated that they have no plans to ban fireworks either, Bridges was pushing hard for fireworks to stay a part of New Zealand culture on Magic Talk radio earlier this week
“You end up banning something the vast majority of law-abiding people do well for a few idiots. I’ve got incredibly good memories of doing this with my family – it’s good, wholesome family fun. They’ve actually banned all the really powerful stuff. I remember rockets that seemed to go all the way to the moon when I was a kid… and double-happies.”
Fond memories aside, Bridges seems to avoid any mention of the cost to taxpayers from property loss, fires and injuries to people and animals as a result of fireworks-related mayhem.
This may have escaped his attention. Still, a growing number of New Zealanders are asking for the public sale of fireworks to be banned.
A recent petition asking for a ban attracted over 18,000 signatures. When the Auckland Council asked Aucklanders if they’d like back yard fireworks banned, a resounding 89 per cent voted “yes”. This saw the Auckland City Council voting to ask the Government to outlaw the private sale of fireworks.
Mounting levels of public concern around the private use of fireworks is nothing new. In 2007, the Government restricted sales to just four days a year, raising the purchase age to 18 while also placing limits on the power of fireworks.
That the laws passed by the then Labour government went unchanged by the National Government for the entire nine years they were in power also seems to have escaped Simon’s attention.
This is probably a good thing. The number of fireworks-related ACC claims has declined, as has the number of Guy Fawkes related emergency service callouts since the law changes.
Yet despite all of this, Simon seems hell-bent on supporting back yard fireworks. While his argument is that a few idiots shouldn’t ruin it for the rest of us, the reality is somewhat different. The end results of the misuse of fireworks are so severe that those who’ve lost their homes to fire or had children and pets maimed are likely to see Simon’s rant as both ill-advised and tactless.
It’s now the day after Guy Fawkes and the usual post fireworks carnage is still being sorted through. Early reports are already surfacing of damage caused by several large fires in Auckland, Palmerston North and Christchurch, while news of animal and people fireworks-related injuries are yet to be reported. No one has, however, reported if these fires were the result of idiots, law-abiding people or just an unfortunate combination of a lack of rain and winds.
Inappropriate remarks from Simon aside, there are sensible solutions that could help reduce the annual carnage from fireworks. One of the more obvious but controversial to implement is an outright ban on the sale of fireworks to private individuals and the use of fireworks beyond public displays outlawed.
The rationale for this is both compelling and straightforward. Public displays operated by pyrotechnic professionals are likely to be many more times safer than the backyard chaos every year. Not only are public displays a far safer option, but commercial fireworks also deliver a significantly better spectacle than the overpriced fizzers sold to punters.
So, is Simon, right? Should backyard fireworks continue? Or, should they get banned? Should there only be public displays? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.