In rural Darwin, this time of year is associated with acute fire risk, yet on Sunday Territorians will be permitted to let off fireworks to celebrate Territory Day.
- Territory Day, when residents can let off fireworks, is on Sunday
- The Top End is in a period of high fire danger
- A decision on fire bans and firework sales is expected on Friday or Saturday
The celebrations, held annually on July 1, often spark debate and hundreds of calls to emergency services.
The last pre-COVID Territory Day in 2019 led to 27 injuries, 770 triple-0 calls and 679 grassfires.
That debate has escalated this year, with the day being rescheduled due to COVID-19 lockdowns to a date that has Territorians alarmed about the fire risk.
For many residents of rural Darwin, the risk to houses and lives is too high.
For the firework retailers and importers who lost significant amounts of money due to the rescheduling announcement another cancellation or delay could devastate their businesses.
‘Praying for a total fire ban’
Rural Darwin resident Pauline Cass said NT Chief Minister Gunner had not paid attention to any of the concerns raised over the fire risk for the Top End in late August.
“I think everyone is just praying for a total fire ban day and [to] have the whole thing cancelled.”
Ms Cass said her area of Humpty Doo would be a tinderbox on Territory Day.
“I am really concerned that this year will be the year we lose homes and possibly lives,” she said
Mr Gunner has said he would cancel personal firework sales in areas where fire bans came into place.
“Obviously we will respect any fire advice on the day, so I cannot guarantee it’ll be a day for personal firecrackers even though they may be available,” he said.
A total fire ban for the Darwin and Adelaide RIver areas was declared earlier this week.
But on Tuesday evening, the Greater Darwin region also recorded record early rainfall for August.
Rural resident Nardine Griffin said the rain could be residents’ “godsend”.
But she said the fire conditions were “scary” at this time last year and she was seriously concerned.
Firework retailers left with little room to move
Members of the fireworks industry have said the new date, which they opposed, was decided without any consultation.
Fireworks importer Luke Caridi said people in the industry had emailed the government about the proposal for a new date several times and pushed for the day to be set earlier in July, but they received no response.
He said he had over $1 million on the line and had already lost over $100,000 in the delay, partly due to paying for 24-hour security to protect the fireworks in his warehouse.
Fireworks Australia director Martin Brady said there could be a serious issue with trying to reign in the “tonnes and tonnes” of fireworks that had already been distributed to outlets.
Additionally, he said the move to restrict fireworks sales in the Top End, in the event of localised fire bans, could jeopardise commercial sales of fireworks into the future.
A spokesperson for Mr Gunner said he expected to advise the public on Friday of any likely localised fire bans ahead of Territory Day, but the announcement could come on Saturday depending on weather conditions.
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