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Council to Debate Fireworks Policy Following Community Anger

Nov 21, 2023

More accounts have emerged highlighting the perils of mixing fireworks and horses following the near death of a horse frightened by a fireworks display.

The latest incident comes as Hawkesbury Council gears up for tonight’s debate on the proposal of a Fireworks Policy for the LGA.

This week, a distressing report emerged from the UK detailing the plight of a horse found on the brink of death following a nearby fireworks exhibition that left the animal terrified. Discovered the morning after the event, the horse was not only exhausted but also entangled in fencing with injuries the animal may not recover from.  The owner described the horse’s harrowing experience, stating, “He must have been so terrified; he’d gone through such a thick blackthorn hedge, you couldn’t even see a gap.”

The horse survived the incident but has sustained considerable injuries. [Photo: Horse and Hound]

The horse is covered in friction burns where he was kicking for hours to get free. “He was absolutely exhausted,” she said. “He’s got big haematomas on his chest and stomach, numerous cuts and nerve damage…He’s in a very bad way,” she told Horse and Hound. 

This incident precedes tonight’s council meeting where the formulation of a Fireworks Display Policy will be deliberated. Councillor Mary Lyons-Buckett has submitted a Notice of Motion, prompted by community concerns, especially in the aftermath of two controversial fireworks events at the Chapel Hill Retreat in Berambing. The proposed policy aims to subject all pyrotechnical displays to Council review, imposing controls to mitigate safety risks, noise disturbances, and pollution concerns. Additionally, the motion seeks information on the number of pyrotechnic display licenses issued by SafeWork NSW for the Hawkesbury LGA each year.

The contentious fireworks display at the Chapel Hill Retreat have fuelled local discontent, with residents expressing fury over the recent event. Residents argue that the displays are  incompatible with the rural bush setting, are a fire risk and safety hazard for approximately 60 neighbouring horses and other animals.

Local horse owners said the event was far worse than they had been expecting. They were forced to try to restrain their animals and stop them from running through fences and endangering themselves. At least one frightened horse ran through a fence when his owner was unable to contain him. 

A video taken by one local horse owner shows a significant, loud fireworks display that went on for about 10 minutes, considerably longer than the 4 minutes residents were told it would last for.

One resident who wished to remain anonymous said the reaction by HCC to the display highlights how out of touch the council are with the rural aspects of the community, in particular the equine community. “Rather than alienating them they should be embracing the equine community. The Hawkesbury has more horses per capita than anywhere else in Australia and the industry is a significant economic boost for the local economy.” 

HCC Director of City Planning Meagan Ang said that Council could set conditions about the use of fireworks but didn’t. Instead they advised horse owners to move their livestock if concerned.

Lyons-Buckett  had previously told the HP that imposing the onus of responsibility on property owners having to relocate their horses due to potential adverse impacts from fireworks is perceived as unfair by those residents.” Lyons-Buckett was not speaking on behalf of HCC.

Another fireworks event is planned at the venue on November 24, 2023.

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