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Cabinet agrees to tougher controls on fireworks

22 December 2006

Cabinet agrees to tougher controls on fireworks

Cabinet has approved tighter regulations around the sale of fireworks for Guy Fawkes 2007, Environment Minister David Benson-Pope said today.

“Cabinet has agreed that the fireworks sale period for 2007 will be limited to three days before Guy Fawkes, and the legal age of purchase will be raised to 18 years," Mr Benson-Pope said.

"This aims to restrict young teenagers from purchasing these potentially harmful explosives, and to make the Guy Fawkes season less taxing for the Fire Service and Police,” he said.

Mr Benson-Pope said Cabinet had also agreed that in 2007 sparklers would not be sold separately, but only as part of larger fireworks packs, to discourage the dangerous trend of ‘sparkler bombs’.

Mr Benson-Pope said that at this stage he had stopped short of a total ban on fireworks. "I have listened to the various groups that do want a ban, and I am still open to that possibility in the future, but I believe the best approach at this stage is to tighten up the laws around sale," he said.

"Guy Fawkes is a fun event for thousands of families, and fireworks-related damage is caused by a small group of mostly young people. I don't feel it's fair on New Zealanders to ban fireworks sales at this stage because of the actions of a minority.

“We want to see fireworks users behaving responsibly, being aware of and avoiding fire risk, guarding the personal safety of themselves and others, and being aware of the effect the noise has on animals.

“I understand the frustration the Police and Fire Service teams feel when faced with problems over Guy Fawkes, and I hope these new restrictions will send a message that deliberate harm or damage is criminal and is being clamped down on,” Mr Benson-Pope said.

“In addition to the new regulations, the Environment Risk Management Authority will start investigating the design and construction of fireworks, and next year government will consult with industry about new regulations in this area," he said.

What does Cabinet’s decision mean for Guy Fawkes in 2007?

The legal age limit to purchase fireworks in 2007 will be raised from 14 to 18

The fireworks sales period will be reduced to three days, being November 3-5 inclusive

Sparklers will no longer be sold in individual packs, and will only be available in the larger, assorted retail fireworks packs.

What does Cabinet’s decision mean for Guy Fawkes in 2008?

Officials will work with the fireworks industry to consider ways to improve the design, construction and performance of fireworks for the 2008 season. This will result in less explosive and unnecessarily noisy retail fireworks in 2008.

Why not ban the retail sale of fireworks?

The options agreed to by Cabinet minimise the potential for the misuse of fireworks, while not preventing families enjoying fireworks for Guy Fawkes celebrations.

While fireworks misuse is of concern, it was decided that the actions of a few should not at this stage mean depriving all families the enjoyment of fireworks through a total ban.

Will raising the age limit make a difference?

Raising the age limit will restrict the access to explosives by people in their early teens. Consequently we should see fewer fireworks incidents involving young people, and a reduction of incidents occurring in and around schools.

Retailers will need to be more vigilant about the age of customers, and will be breaking the law if they sell to people under 18. Fireworks consumers will need to present identification to purchase fireworks, in the same way as purchasing tobacco or alcohol.

Why a three-day sales period?

The current fireworks sales period runs over 10 days, from 27 October to 5 November. Occasionally the fireworks sales period encompasses two weekends (as in 2005 and 2006).

As fireworks tend to be let off as soon as the sales period begins, Guy Fawkes celebrations are effectively prolonged. A fireworks sales period of three days will concentrate the use of fireworks to closer to Guy Fawkes night. A three day sales period is enforced, and works well, in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT).

Why remove the separate sale of sparklers?

In recent years, we've seen increasing incidents involving illegal bombs made from sparklers. Cabinet has decided to limit their sale to inclusion only in the larger, assorted retail fireworks packs so that large amounts can't be easily and cheaply purchased.

Why change the design, performance and testing of fireworks?

The regulations surrounding the composition and performance of fireworks have not been changed for several years. In that time there have been advancements in fireworks technology that have led to an abundance of more powerful retail fireworks.

Officials will work with the fireworks industry through 2007 to agree on the types of fireworks that will be allowed in the 2008 Guy Fawkes season.

As retailer’s fireworks orders are placed early in the New Year, there is little opportunity to make informed decisions on this area to change the types of fireworks available in 2007.

Who controls the regulations and use of fireworks in New Zealand?

Fireworks regulations are controlled by the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act within New Zealand, and enforced in places of work by the Department of Labour. The Police enforce the misuse of fireworks by members of the public.


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