New push to ditch fireworks

Opponents fear frightened birds like this ma and pa swan might abandon their brood to during fireworks.

A COUPLE of Cockburn residents are having another crack at getting fireworks banned from Manning Park, saying they’re being let off too close to a sensitive wetland. 

Each year around this time the Rotary Spring Fair features a small fireworks display, but Hamilton Hill resident Penelope Bradshaw is gathering signatures on a petition calling for them to be replaced with something more “economically responsible”. 

“Fireworks in their proper place are not an issue, but the absurdity of setting off fireworks in a wildlife area and sanctuary should be obvious,” Ms Bradshaw said. 

She says each year flocks of shrieking birds flee the park, and being breeding season that could mean ducklings being left unprotected from predators and cold. 

“The cries of the birds are horrifying,” she said, adding fair-goers mightn’t notice because of the noise from the fireworks. 

“Additionally, the following day we have located a number of disorientated large lizards making their way from the park and through the suburb.” 

Ms Bradshaw said she also found rubbish close to the lake afterwards, including what appeared to be expended firework canisters. 

Rubbish has previously been identified as an issue by the council, which a few years ago beefed up the clean-up requirements, particularly as fireworks involve small amounts of toxic chemicals. 

But the council’s head of sustainability and environment Chris Beaton says the impact of the fireworks are likely to be low as they’re brief and held once a year. 

“Loud noises, such as those produced by fireworks, are likely to cause a fear response for most animals such as flight, running or cowering, but medium or long-term impacts are unlikely,” Mr Beaton said. 

“Study findings suggest the fireworks are similar to a thunderstorm, with animals returning to their habitats afterwards. 

“In an earlier study to examine impacts of fireworks … birds were counted in the week before, during the spring fair immediately after the fireworks, the next day and the week following the fireworks and birds had returned to nests, with no deaths attributable to the fireworks.” 

The council also commissioned a desktop review in 2021 which found the small amount of fireworks was likely to be a big contaminant, although Mr Beaton said the council is still planning to have the soil tested for a base level so the effects over time can be monitored. 

Mr Beaton said the fireworks 

 cost around $5000, but alternatives looked into by the council would probably soak up the entire $75,000 fair budget.

He says the council is still looking to phase out fireworks in the long-term, but that would only come if an economic alternative was found or there was a groundswell of opposition from the community.

Ms Bradshaw’s petition has the support from fellow resident Rae Jenkins, Hilton vet Heinrich Van Niekerk and animal behaviourist Nicole Lobry de Bruyn.

“We’re not against fireworks for those who enjoy them,” Ms Jenkins says.

“Just keep them out of our wetlands and away from our wildlife reserves.

“Fireworks are temporary enjoyment; our nature reserves are permanent enjoyment if we look after them.”

Dr Van Niekerk says the effect of fireworks can be detrimental and even fatal to animals. “In my 30 years of being a vet, I have seen dogs being so frightened by the loud noise of the fireworks that they jumped through windows and cut themselves badly,” Dr Van Niekerk told the Herald.

“Birds in aviaries get a fright and fly into the sides fo the aviary, injuring themselves.

“Wild birds are bewildered by the loud noise and bright 

 lights and can sometimes fly into obstacles in their way like poles, electric cables, branches, etc.

“This can lead to severe injuries and death.”

Dr Van Niekerk said the impact could leave animals with a life-long noise phobia.

Dr de Bruyn said: “Not in favour of fireworks in general as it is a source of distress for many animals.”

 by STEVE GRANT 

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