Auckland Council mulls ban on public sale of fireworks

Auckland Council is asking locals to consider a ban on the public sale of fireworks. 

The council intends to ask the Government to ban the public sale of fireworks from retailers, but people would still be able to attend public fireworks displays.

"Auckland Council is concerned about fires, damage, injury or distress to people and animals that can be caused by setting off fireworks in neighbourhood back yards," says Councillor Linda Cooper, Chair of the Regulatory Committee.

"The public use of fireworks also places pressure on police, fire services and council officers who receive large numbers of complaints in relation to fireworks, especially around Guy Fawkes."

It comes after fire crews across New Zealand responded to at least 26 fires started by fireworks on Sunday, with several of the callouts deemed significant. 

With official Guy Fawkes celebrations happening Monday night, Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) crews are on high alert. The council is now considering introducing a future ban on sales, but not before the public is consulted. 

"We don't want to do this without hearing from Aucklanders because we don't think we've got a mandate without asking people. We're probably pretty split or agnostic about it," Ms Cooper told Newshub. 

The current bylaw (rules made by local councils) requires people using fireworks not to put others at risk. But with over 20 FENZ callouts within 24 hours, there are doubts over whether people can use fireworks safely. 

"Private individuals are able to buy them and do whatever they like with them, on their private property and that's the issue," says Ms Cooper, adding that there aren't enough safeguards on fireworks sales. 

"This is not just on November 5," she added. "From the moment you're able to purchase [fireworks], we've been hearing them, and it goes on all hours of the night, so people don't have a chance to prepare."

This request comes as part of Auckland Council's consultation on the proposed changes to the Public Safety and Nuisance Bylaw. Currently, the bylaw bans the use of fireworks on public places. This rule is proposed to be retained. 

"Auckland Council recently checked how well the rules set out in the bylaw are working and identified some improvements," says Ms Cooper.

"The proposed changes aim to remove any unnecessary aspects of the bylaw and streamline regulation, so we don't have multiple rules for one issue."

The bylaw also requires that people using fireworks on private property ensure they do not cause a safety risk to people on public property. The review found that this rule is already covered in central government legislation. 

The council's noise control officers, police and fire services already have the right to address issues with fireworks on private property which means that this part of the bylaw is no longer needed.

The changes would not affect Auckland Council's current response to incidents. The public can still report issues and the council says it will continue to prioritise its response. 

The sale of fireworks to the public is regulated by the Hazardous Substances (Fireworks) Regulations 2001 which were amended in 2007 to help prevent fireworks being misused in New Zealand. 

The 2007 amendment to the regulations was a result of a 2004 investigation into the sale of fireworks to the public due to the increasing numbers of people, animals and property being harmed. 

The period of time retailers can sell fireworks to the public was reduced to the four days prior to and including 5 November. The legal age of purchase was also raised to 18 years. Fireworks sold by retailers also had to be quieter. 

Aucklanders now have an opportunity to share their views on the public sale of fireworks. The consultation is seeking public feedback from now until 5 December.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said last week there are no current plans to ban the public sale of fireworks. But she said Auckland Council could feasibly ban the sale of fireworks if the proposal was to go ahead.

You make a submission and find out more at the Auckland Council website.