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Fireworks still going ahead in the Blue Mountains this weekend

Oct 31, 2023

The planned fireworks display at Chapel Hill Retreat at Berambing in the Blue Mountains is still going ahead with Hawkesbury Council telling landowners to move their horses if they are concerned about their welfare.

Chapel Hill Retreat is planning two fireworks events on Friday 3rd November 2023 and Friday 24th November 2023 at their venue surrounded by bush in the Blue Mountains. 

The decision has ignited a fiery debate as local residents and horse owners express grave concerns over the fire risk and also the safety of their horses. 

Event organiser DazzleFX said that they have meticulously followed all necessary licensing and safety regulations to ensure the display’s safety. However, the local community remains deeply apprehensive about the event taking place in an area which three years ago was decimated by the Gospers Mountain fire. 

The memory of that devastating event still looms large, and residents argue that the current fire risk is extraordinarily high. Today there is a total fire ban and the fire rating is Extreme. 

Mary Lyons Buckett, a concerned Councillor, has voiced the community’s anxieties at a meeting at council this week. “There is still no response from RFS head office. I also expressed my concern that the only action seems to be retrospective, if the conditions are breached, which I find to be unsatisfactory as the impact has by then already been felt. I am disappointed in the responses provided by the council to the community on this issue. The expectation that property owners would have to move their horses to another location is an undue imposition on horse owners.”

With the first of two planned events just days away residents are losing faith in local authorities to manage the situation. 

Concerned horse owner Chris Azzopardi said he spoke to Hawkesbury Council (HCC) yesterday and they told him to move his horses. “I was told that if we are concerned about the safety of our horses we all need to move our horses down the mountain for the night at our own cost, with a population of around 60 horses surrounding the Chapel Hill property he seems to think that’s easily done,” Azzopardi said. 

Azzopardi said there seemed to be confusion about who was responsible for green lighting the event. He said HCC told him the final decision was up to Safe Work NSW but when he rang them, they said the final decision rests with HCC. He said HCC told him that no environmental risk assessment had been undertaken by the Rural Fire Service (RFS).

HCC said it does not authorise the use of fireworks.

“Safework NSW have issued licences for the use of fireworks at both of these events,” Director of City Planning Meagan Ang said.

“Council is a notification organisation regarding the use of fireworks and can set conditions regarding the use of fireworks, but it cannot revoke the licence issued by Safework NSW. Council has discussed with the event facilitator measures to manage and mitigate noise concerns. Landowners have been provided with advance notification to allow them to secure or relocate their horses if they choose to do so. Any concerns regarding fire safety should be directed to NSW RFS,” she said.

An email from Chapel Hill Retreat to the Hawkebsury Post said they; “Understand the concerns of the residents however we have been in correspondence with Dazzle Fx and believe that they are taking all necessary precautions required.”

“We will be contacting our solicitor if there is any discredit that may damage the business reputation,” it added.

Comment has been sought from the RFS. 

 

 

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