Hands tied over use of fireworks

MATHEW GROCOTT
Last updated 12:00 08/08/2014

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A plea from animal lovers to the Horowhenua District Council to do something about the use of fireworks has been met with the news there's not much that can be done.

The Horowhenua Kennel Association wrote to the council listing a long series of events where animals and people had been negatively affected by fireworks.

"As a community organisation which represents and encourages responsible dog ownership, our members are dismayed and angry over the lack of enforcement of the council bylaws regarding such nuisance," association president Peter Sharp wrote.

Sharp says association members at Waikawa Beach reported that each year fireworks were let off for several days around New Year's Eve. This year a group had let fireworks off for about 12 hours on January 31.

Getting a response from authorities to coastal communities was nigh on impossible, Sharp says.

"Our experience over several years is that trying to get the police to act on fireworks complaints is a forlorn hope."

He asked that the council and police formulate an action plan to respond to nuisance fireworks.

The letter was discussed at a council meeting on Wednesday, where councillors were told there was not much they could do.

Council customer and regulatory services manager Mike Lepper said while there were restrictions on when fireworks could be sold there were no laws around when they could be let off. The council was able to respond to fireworks as a noise control issue, though, he said.

"We do respond to fireworks complaints; the problem is by the time we respond the fireworks are over.

"The only control is on when you can buy them, not when you can use them."

Cr Ross Campbell said he had a lot of sympathy for the association's point of view. It was not just domesticated animals that had trouble during the Guy Fawkes period. The co-owner of Shannon bird sanctuary Owlcatraz, Campbell said he had noticed birds such as weka, ruru and tui abandoning eggs over that period. "Fireworks time is when most birds are incubating."

One of the options the council considered on Wednesday night was to advocate to the Government for a complete ban on the private purchase of fireworks.

This suggestion gathered little support, however a vote on whether the council should advocate for controls on when fireworks could be let off ended in a split vote. Mayor Brendan Duffy used his casting vote to decide not to write to the Government.

Cr Michael Feyen said a ban would result in the vast majority of fireworks owners who used the products responsibly being punished for the stupidity of the few who did not.

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Cr Christine Mitchell said there were already much tighter restrictions on what fireworks could be sold. "You don't have decent rockets any more, or decent bangers."

Mitchell did support looking at restrictions on when they could be let off.

- Manawatu Standard

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