Opinion: Another fire, another reason to ban fireworks

OPINION: Fireworks are thought to have set off a big fire in North Canterbury and I think the time has come for us to get rid of them.

It’s also time we stopped this ridiculous celebration of Guy Fawkes Day because it has absolutely no relevance to us here in New Zealand.

What is relevant to New Zealand, is the fact that climate change is causing more extreme weather and letting any Tom, Dick or Harry get their hands on explosives and set them off wherever and whenever they want (in what can be tinder-dry conditions, even this early in summer) is a recipe for disaster.

If you’re like me, the first thing you probably thought when you heard about the North Canterbury fire was whether fireworks might have been involved.

Unlike the old days when fireworks were on sale weeks before Guy Fawkes Day, these days they can only be sold over a four-day period. And that started yesterday.

Granted, it was blimmin’ hot yesterday and windy too - so the risk of fire would’ve been greater anyway. But I’m taking it as a bit of a wake-up call.

We live on the south side of town and when I walked out the door first thing this morning, all I could smell was smoke.

In fact, it was so strong I wondered if there might be a fire somewhere closer than Pegasus and Woodend.

I could even see smoke drifting over the houses in some parts.

But as I headed into town, I could see the line of smoke running down the coast. I could smell it too, of course.

And if you’re one of the 130-odd people who evacuated from the fire area last night, you will have had a hell of a fright.

A colleague of ours here at Newstalk ZB was at the Woodend Beach Holiday Park and ended up helping a family rushing to leave. They were packing up the caravan and getting out of there. And the orange glow from the flames was almost right over them with flames going six metres into the air.

The fire has gone through about 200 hectares and stretches about five kilometres.

Fire and Emergency have had about 70 firefighters fighting the fire.

Gusty nor’westers are forecast - which is the last thing you need when you’re dealing with a fire. And wind is always something I’ve been very mindful of when it comes to fireworks.

In the past, if we’ve headed to a beach to let off fireworks and there are trees in the area, the minute the wind picks up that’s been it. I’ll assume you’re just as careful.

But, at the same time, there are truckloads of idiots who don’t give a damn and who will let off fireworks whatever the conditions. A bit windy? “Oh, it’ll be sweet mate.” Whish!

A few trees around? “Yeah, nah - all good. Got a lighter on ya?”

They’re the same idiots who think it’s perfectly fine to let off fireworks whatever time of the night it is. They were at it about 11 o’clock last night on our side of town.

These people just can’t help themselves, which is why I think we need to do them and us a favour, and just ban the sale of fireworks full-stop. Don’t limit sales to four days a year - make it zero days a year.

Because, whether you choose to believe it or not, climate change is going to mean our environment is going to get drier and drier and drier. At the same time we’re planting more and more trees to suck up carbon from the atmosphere.

And we still think it’s a great idea to sell explosives to any turkey, so they can do what they want with them? It is just nuts.

-By John MacDonald, Canterbury Mornings host on Newstalk ZB Christchurch