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New Zealand is ready for a fireworks retail ban

New Zealand is ready for a fireworks retail ban

October 17, 2006

The New Zealand public is ready for a ban on the retail sale of fireworks, says Fire Service chief executive/national commander Mike Hall, who is calling for a ban from 2007 on.

Three successive public opinion surveys from BRC Research have shown that a majority of New Zealanders support a retail ban, while nine out of ten people support some increase to the current restrictions.

Mr Hall says the Fire Service’s decision to call for a ban – while still supporting public fireworks displays – makes sense on a number of levels.

“The increasing incidence of fireworks-related fires year-on-year is taking firefighters away from legitimate call-outs. The more fireworks fires we have, the more chance someone can’t be reached in a genuine emergency.

“Last year we asked for public debate on the issue of fireworks sales to the public. After the worst Guy Fawkes in 10 years, the public response, through letters, petitions and polls, was overwhelming: we are ready for a ban.

“From my point of view as head of the Fire Service, I see it as putting explosive and incendiary devices in the hands of 14 year olds, and I don’t support it.”

Mr Hall says Fire Service is just one of a growing number of organisations calling for ban.

“The New Zealand Police support our call and all of the organisations that make up the National Rural Fire Advisory Committee – local governments, the Department of Conservation, Federated Farmers, the Defence Force and private forest owners as well as the National Rural Fire Authority – have put their weight behind a ban.”

He says New Zealand is also out of step with other western countries – particularly Australia, in our attitude to fireworks sales.

Inspector Marc Paynter from the Police National Headquarters says the Police’s backing of a ban this year is for the same reasons they stated last year.

“It is always a minority of people who behave irresponsibly, but they are taking increasing amounts of time to handle, and causing increasing amounts of damage before they are brought to our attention.

"Public displays are well organised, safe and spectacular. We would prefer to put our resources into policing them, rather than dealing with pockets of mayhem in the suburbs."

Inspector Paynter says the fireworks-related incidents last year ranged from about 240 exploded letterboxes, to fireworks being shot at people, animals and gas stations.

In the 10-day period last year when fireworks were legally for sale (October 27 to November 5) firefighters attended over 700 fireworks-related fires while
Police attended nearly 1200 fireworks-related incidents.

A BRC research poll before November 2005 showed 54 percent of people supported a retail ban. This figure grew to 66 percent in a December 2005 survey and a retail ban had 61 percent support as recently as June.

While fireworks remain legally for sale in 2006, the Fire Service, Police, ERMA New Zealand and the Ministry for the Environment are promoting a safety message which includes a website giving details of public fireworks displays around New Zealand as well as tips on using fireworks safely and how to report misuse.

A special website www.GuyFawkes2006.govt.nz, hosted by ERMA, has been established to provide access to the information.

Endscontinues…

Guy Fawkes at a glance:

• In 2005 there were 1867 fires, up 70 percent on 2004 and the highest number since sky rockets were banned following a disastrous Guy Fawkes Day in 1994.

• More than 240 letterboxes were destroyed or damaged by fireworks.

• This year Guy Fawkes falls on a Sunday, meaning potentially three-straight days of heavy call-out numbers.

• The majority of firefighters called to Guy Fawkes incidents are volunteers, who do not get to make up pay – or sleep – lost while fighting fires.

• There are more than 40 public fireworks displays from Invercargill to Whangarei this year. Many are free and some include stalls, music, fancy dress and other attractions. Visit www.GuyFawkes2006.govt.nz for details.

Public Opinion at a glance:

Survey period: In favour of retail ban In favour of age limit increase In favour of status quo
June 2005 54 percent 34 percent 6 percent
December 2005 66 percent 26 percent 3 percent
June 2006 61 percent 30 percent 4 percent

Source: BRC Social Marketing and Research, Fire Service communications effectiveness monitor (margins of error between 3.3% and 3.7)

Note: “Don’t know” and refused to respond answers have not been shown, so figures above may not sum to 100%

Overseas fireworks laws at a glance:

• Australia: Fireworks retails sales are banned throughout except in ACT and the Northern Territory. In ACT an age limit of 18 applies, and fireworks can only be let off over the Saturday, Sunday and Monday of Queen’s Birthday Weekend between 5pm and 10pm.
• UK: Sales of fireworks (and carrying them in public) are limited to those over 18. Fireworks cannot be let off after 11pm or before 7am except on Guy Fawkes Night (midnight cut-off) and New Year’s Eve (1am cut-off).
• USA: Ten states ban all fireworks, six others restrict public sales to novelty fireworks such as party poppers.
• Canada: Similar restrictions to New Zealand.

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