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Berambing Fireworks Not Permitted after Residents Pleas

Nov 24, 2023

The second fireworks event planned at Chapel Hill Retreat have been stopped following desperate pleas by Berambing residents.

SafeWork NSW today removed the event from their website confirming they had withdrawn the license for the event which will no longer be permitted.

Ten months after being made aware of two fireworks events at Berambing in the Blue Mountains, Hawkesbury City Council (HCC) finally this week, asked SafeWork NSW to revoke the licence just four days before the next event at Chapel Hill Retreat. The action only came after Councillor Mary Lyons-Buckett moved a Motion at Tuesday’s Council meeting.

“I’ve not been advised of an outcome by Council yet, but community members who stood to be impacted have welcomed the news. I look forward to getting a satisfactory policy in place which can ensure Council can input into the decisions made around permits issued by SafeWork NSW. Even though we are not the regulator we definitely have a role we can play in the process,” Lyons-Buckett said.

HCC had known about the two planned fireworks events since February. However, no action was taken to stop the two displays from taking place despite pleas from residents concerned about the fire risk and safety of about 60 neighbouring horses and other animals.

Some councillors including Deputy Mayor Barry Calvert and Mayor Sarah McMahon told the meeting that Council couldn’t stop the fireworks because they are not the consent authority. However. Safework NSW and the Council’s own published guidelines appear to disagree. The guidelines on HCC website state that once a number of licensing conditions have been met, Council will then assess the notification based on a range of issues including location, animal welfare and noise to name a few. SafeWork NSW states; “…whether the conditions are safe for fireworks to go ahead is ultimately a decision for local authorities.”

It was only following the Motion by Lyons-Buckett and pleas by residents at Tuesday’s meeting that Council determined to act. On November 22, Council finally wrote to SafeWork NSW asking that Saturday night’s fireworks display not go ahead.

“…Hawkesbury City Council objects to the issuing of a licence for the display under the Explosives Regulation 2013 and requests that SafeWork NSW revoke the licence for the use of fireworks at the event in Berambing on 24 November 2023,” the letter said.

“A letter (attached) has been sent to the pyrotechnician and the event organiser. Council staff have contacted the pyrotechnician and the event organiser directly to discuss the objection.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, residents gave at times distressing accounts of what they were forced to endure during the first fireworks event at Chapel Hill which went ahead on November 3. 

“The fireworks that night were equivalent to being on a battlefield,” longtime Berambing resident Diana Thurgood said. “There was absolutely no respite, just a constant barrage of explosions. They were basically all long shots and the noise could be heard as far away as east Kurrajong and went for well over six minutes instead of four. That night bought back terrible memories and feelings of panic of the (Gosper’s Mountain) fire. I can not believe the Council, and Work Safety think it’s ok to subject a traumatised community to this experience and they have undone so much of the counselling we received,” Thurgood said.

“I gave all six horses calming paste at considerable personal expense but this did nothing. I had one thoroughbred gelding run at full speed into a gate twice. This was fortunate though because if it had been a fence he would have been entangled,” she said.

Peter Richard Doolan, another resident, criticised the outdated process for dealing with fireworks and objections. He called for changes to zoning laws to outlaw fireworks in such areas, highlighting the additional expenses his business incurs to ensure the safety of horses and clients during these events.

“I have no choice but to pull in all available resources to ensure the safety of my horses and my clients’ horses all at my expense. My public liability is put at unfair risk due to these fireworks. If my horse escapes and breaks through a fence and gets hit by a car or a truck on Bells Line of Road, who is held accountable?”, he said.

Kelsea Thurgood shared a tragic incident when her friend’s two show jumping horses were killed when frightened by fireworks at Bathurst Showground. They ran five kilometres down the road before being hit by cars. “There is no guarantee a horse can be contained when fireworks explode and no way to ensure the safety of motorists and horses themselves,” she said. “Our animals who are unable to be moved to a safe location suffered both physical and psychological trauma.” 

Resident Andrew Gruter, who was forced to cancel other commitments to stay home and protect his horses – three of which have played polo for Australia – asked why Council did not contact SafeWork NSW given the residents’ known concerns.

“The fireworks need to stop, they impact so many people in our normally quiet rural setting and benefit so few…I’m in the rural fire brigade and we’ve got better things to do than fight fires potentially caused from this type of action,” he said.

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