THE number of Hunter Region destinations offering New Year’s Eve fireworks has dwindled in recent years.
With no Warners Bay, Swansea or Caves Beach displays on Tuesday night, Wangi Wangi was the only Lake Macquarie town with fireworks.
The lack of attractions on the eastern side of the lake probably helped draw more people into Newcastle, where the council has traditionally hosted two sets of pyrotechnics – one at 9pm, the other at midnight.
But this year, Newcastle City Council dispensed with the midnight display, promising instead to spend as much on the one show as it previously did on both.
Initial impressions of the Nobbys display were positive enough, but early praise was soon dampened by a rising tone of disappointment from some watchers, and not only with the quality of the fireworks show itself.
A number of people also complained about a lack of traffic control once the fireworks had finished, when an immediate exodus of vehicles led to substantial traffic jams on both sides of the harbour.
No organisation hosting a New Year’s Eve fireworks display is going to deliberately disappoint its public. Some said this year’s display was not as high in the sky as previous years. But with Sydney pouring $6.8million into its harbour spectacular, a Newcastle show costing $120,000 – and just $20,000 of that on fireworks – was probably destined to suffer by comparison.
While Nobbys is an obvious landmark for a fireworks backdrop, there may be merit in moving to a more central point on the harbour, such as Dyke Point, which has been used at least once in the past. Another alternative might be to shoot for a shorter display, but to send the fireworks skyward from a variety of vantage points along the waterfront.
Such a change would not only put more people closer to the action, it may well add grandeur to a spectacle that, for adults at least, can become repetitive after the first few minutes.
Newcastle council had its share of critics last year and some might dismiss complaints about fireworks as nit-picking or carping. Lord mayor Jeff McCloy’s suggestion was for people who complain to ‘‘contribute some money in some way’’.
That’s a fair point, but some might say they do already – through their rates. Debates over council spending priorities are nothing new, but civic leaders must be wondering if there are ways to make the 2014 fireworks more of a night to remember. For the right reasons.