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John MacDonald: The muppets have spoiled the fireworks party

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Thu, 2 Nov 2023, 1:12PM
Photo / File
Photo / File

John MacDonald: The muppets have spoiled the fireworks party

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Thu, 2 Nov 2023, 1:12PM

A year ago tonight, it was pandemonium up Pegasus way after fireworks caused a massive fire.  

People had to evacuate. I remember talking with someone who had been at the Woodend Beach Holiday Park. He was telling me about helping a family get out of there. 

They were packing up a caravan van and he said you could see the orange glow from the flames getting closer and closer. 

In total, about 130 people evacuated from the area and about 70 firefighters were involved. You might remember, too, that a bunch of racehorses had to be evacuated as well from the training stables at Woodend Beach.  

And as soon as I heard about the fire on the night I thought ‘oh, here we go…fireworks’. 

The Fire and Emergency people didn’t say that straight away but, eventually, they confirmed ‘yes, it was fireworks’. Which didn’t surprise us, did it? And we were asking ‘why the hell are we still doing this?’ 

But, a year on, here we go again - with fireworks going on sale from today until the end of the week. Just as a new survey finds that most people want them banned from public sale. 

According to data released by AA Insurance, 53 percent of people surveyed want a ban on recreational use and a further 20 percent want fireworks banned outright. So, what’s that, 73 percent of people want them gone in some way, shape or form. 

If I could have my way, I would ban people from being idiots. I wouldn’t ban fireworks. But that’s never going to happen. So I’m going to have to go with my second option - which is the ban on public sale and recreational use which so many people seem to want. 

Because even though it was hot and windy a year ago today —meaning Pegasus was tinder dry and it was never going to take much to start a fire— those conditions weren’t a one-off.  

And the muppets who ignored those conditions and still thought it was a good idea to set-off fireworks in the area, they’re not the only idiots on the planet are they? So if we can’t stop people being idiots, the only option is to stop them from getting their hands on fireworks. 

And I reckon a lot of us are only one or steps away from being idiots with fireworks ourselves. I know our kids have some very fond memories of Guy Fawkes night and us dads setting them all up in the backyard and setting them off. And it has not always been plain selling. 

Back in the day, you’ll remember, fireworks were in the shops weeks before Guy Fawkes Day. And kids would be going around the streets after school letting off the Tom Thumbs and the Pohas. Blowing up letterboxes. 

There were stories too of university students firing skyrockets at eachother between the halls of residence in Dunedin. And there were plenty of stories too about people getting injured by fireworks. 

And while all that was going, we had the Fireworks Lady campaigning day-in, day-out to have fireworks banned from being sold to the public. Beverley Pentland was her name. She visited school-after-school educating kids about the danger of fireworks. 

And thanks to her efforts, the Explosives Amendment Bill made its way through Parliament and was passed in 1973 (50 years ago), which limited the period fireworks could be sold to just 10 days before Guy Fawkes Day.  

That’s gone down even further and, these days, anyone who wants to buy fireworks only has four days to do it. 

And I think that is four days too long. 

Yes, I’ve had a great time over the years setting-off fireworks. But times have changed.  

For starters, what relevance does Guy Fawkes Day have to us here in New Zealand? Zero relevance. It’s all about a guy who wanted to blow-up Parliament 19,000 kilometres away in London. So zero relevance. 

Times have also changed when it comes to the environment these fireworks are being used in. Whether you choose to believe in climate change or not, you can’t tell me that we are living in much drier conditions than we used to. 

Not to mention the fact that people just seem to be more and more ignorant of what’s going on around them and seem to think they have some sort of God-given right to set these things off whenever they want, wherever they want. 

Like I say, we can’t ban people from being idiots - so the only option is to ban them from buying fireworks. 

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