Wellington Mayor Justin Lester supports ban on public firework sales

The Wellington Mayor says he supports banning the private sale of fireworks, after a Green MP urged him to bring about change. 

"I personally support banning the sale of fireworks, but it is something the community has to decide," Justin Lester, the Mayor of Wellington, told Newshub. 

He said there is "strong levels of public support" for a ban, but added: "I would need to canvas councillors first and would want to ensure that any changes are community-led."

Lester was responding to a letter penned by Green MP Gareth Hughes on Thursday urging Wellington City Council to support the Greens' stance on private firework sales.

Hughes said fireworks "cause hundreds of accidents each year, start fires and cause distress and sometimes injuries to animals".

"I've been outspoken about fireworks in my capacity as Animal Welfare Spokesperson for the Green Party. I want to see the private sale and use of fireworks banned and replaced by safer, better public displays."

Wellington Mayor Justin Lester supports a ban on the private sale of fireworks.
Wellington Mayor Justin Lester supports a ban on the private sale of fireworks. Photo credit: Facebook

He said three petitions representing over 40,000 signatures supporting a ban were discussed this week by the Governance and Administration Select Committee.

"A strong directive from the Wellington City Council would see momentum towards banning the sale of fireworks."

Hughes applauded the council for "bringing Wellingtonians together", highlighting his support for public firework displays, such as the Matariki ki Pōneke (Māori New Year) display taking place on Saturday in Wellington.  

Lester said when considering a ban on the private sale of fireworks, Wellington City Councillors have expressed concerned about safety issues and the welfare of animals.

"We encourage people to go to public displays, but if they do buy their own fireworks to let them off safely and to be aware of the distress they can cause."

Newshub asked four Wellington City Councillors if they would support a ban on the private sale of fireworks, and almost all of them said they hadn't given it that much thought.

Green MP Gareth Hughes (left) with Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick (right).
Green MP Gareth Hughes (left) with Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick (right). Photo credit: Facebook

Councillor Nicola Young said she "loves" public fireworks displays and admitted she thought they're "much safer". She said there would be a "mixed response" from the public over a ban on private sales.

Councillor Brian Dawson said he would support a ban, and thought that most Wellingtonians would too, although he said there would be "quite a mix of reactions".

"We put on fantastic sky shows on in Wellington and that's the sort of thing we should see more of," he said, pointing to Matariki this weekend.

Councillor Sarah Free said while it wasn't something she had given much thought too, she said fireworks "can be distressing for pets". She said she doesn't see an issue with sales, "more how it's managed".

Councillor Diane Calvert said while she's in favour of people being able to purchase sparklers, "I think we're approaching the time when we don't need the private sales."

Should Wellington follow Auckland?

Auckland Council has already moved towards banning the private sale of fireworks. Earlier this year, councillors voted to take opposition to private firework sales to the Government.

The council's Governing Body met in February to vote on the issue, after almost 90 percent of 7997 public submissions on the proposed ban favoured it.

A motion by councillors Cathy Casey and Fa'anana Efeso Collins was made last year seeking the council's support for the Government to introduce legislation, and it was referred for public consultation.

The Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) Annual General Meeting takes place next Sunday in Wellington where the issue will be discussed and voted on.

Casey told Newshub she believes LGNZ will support it.


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