Making Sparks Fly

Fireworks - 1.jpg


Tonight the Fremantle Chamber of Commerce will continue its opposition to the cancellation of the 2017 Australia Day Fireworks at the August City of Fremantle Council. If you wish to join us please do so. The meeting starts at 6pm this evening, but the agenda item (FPOL 1608-4) is deep into the evening’s proceedings so be prepared for a night out/in.

The Chamber’s objection to the decision is all about reputation, profile, economic impact AND the process taken. There was a lot that City HQ didn’t think about and still hasn’t. We met with the Mayor and council staff last week to discuss but our position remains unchanged. It is not good enough that such a profile event is cast aside after admitting the “process has not been ideal”.

The Australia Day Fireworks are a significant event for Fremantle with it driving over $2.5million into the local economy – especially in the hospitality and marine industries. The Chamber has never claimed it to be a great day for retail but it is an extraordinary day for profile. Never more than now do we need people to come to Fremantle, this event is a great reminder that we are open for business

The City may well believe there were a lot of right reasons to head into “researching alternatives” but rushing the 2017 cancellation through has not delivered a good enough replacement for what has become one of the great family events of the region.

With Council factoring in 5% cuts across operations for the 16/17 budget, the Australia Day Firework budget was magically/strategically cut by 37% taking the brunt for other project areas. Well before it went to Council for ratification the Fireworks were doomed to fail.

Tonight the Fremantle Chamber of Commerce will call for the decision to be deferred, and:

  • The 2017 & 2018 Fireworks to proceed, giving Council staff adequate time to consult across the community (including the business community) as to an appropriate celebration;
  • The restitution of the budget for the Australia Day Fireworks; and
  • The implementation of a comprehensive consultation and engagement program across the community to ensure the decision of Council for future celebrations reflects the outcome of this consultation process.

Fireworks Go Bang!

It was but a little mention in The Sunday Times on August 7th but it set off all the bells and whistles, with the news of the City of Fremantle’s proposal to cancel the 2017 Australia Day Fireworks Show.

The response from our members and business community was overwhelmingly shocked and surprised at the decision. From its proud origins as a “Cracker Night” the event had become one of the great family events of the region.

For those confused about how the event has a positive economic spin for Fremantle, I will keep it simple. Hospitality does well on the day. The fireworks don’t hurt retail too much because the afternoon is largely a retail write off anyway. People are not really in a buying mindset because they are preparing to go wherever they are going.

So it actually is one of the easiest days of the year to close some roads and play host to an event that brings tens of thousands of people into Fremantle and the local vantage points. Bring the family to Fremantle, have a good time and go home bearing good thoughts of their visit to Fremantle. Our objection to the decision is all about reputation, profile AND the process taken. There was a lot that City HQ didn’t think about.

So my presentation to the City of Fremantle Policy and Finance Committee last week was as follows:

“Thank you for the opportunity speak on the matter of the cancellation of the Australia Day Fireworks in 2017 and 2018.

The Australia Day fireworks are one of the most loved family events Fremantle presents and the 50,000 (and increasing) people it brings to Fremantle build our reputation.

The Chamber is very aware that the Council’s Festival & Events program is not required to consider economic impact in the delivery and development of events. I am here today because this needs to change.

The Fremantle Chamber of Commerce does not support the cancelation or transferring of the Fireworks because of the impact on the reputation of Fremantle.  

In a period where people don’t need to come to Fremantle anymore, this event has a significant impact on our local economy – its builds a reputation as a family friendly place, a reputation our CBD sorely needs.

The media commentary over the last two days, has inspired a strong bond. The business community does not agree with the proposal. If consulted prior to today this reaction would be the same.

Some feedback from the business community are as follows:

  • There appears to have been very little thought to or consultation with business before placing this item on the Agenda and as a result the business economy of our city looks to be the casualty once again.
  • There has been little done by way of policy or promotion to encourage new business or re-invigorate the economy. This event has been one of the only success stories in recent years and now they want to take it away?
  • I have spoken to many customers & my team & the feedback has been that the fireworks on Australia Day is of bringing together of families & the community. As such we would not be supporting any cancellation of the Fireworks.
  • Should there be a reduction of families attending this festivity it will cause a negative effect on all businesses.
  • It will definitely have a negative affect on our business. If the foot traffic is down on a public holiday it may not be viable to open with the penalty rates that we need to pay we would reconsider our trading hours, the previous owners did not open Australia Day… 
  • I would hazard a guess that the council do not have anything in place yet to replace what we are currently doing.


 There are some business that don’t make a cent on Australia day but they don’t begrudge the celebration of fireworks because it gives people a great Fremantle experience.

 Yes the date selected for the celebration of Australia Day is historically pretty hollow and the Chamber understands there is a need to build more respectful national celebration.

 For now, this event has a huge positive economic impact on the business community of Fremantle. Build the alternate event over time but do not “rob Peter to buy Paul”.

With no public celebration of Australia Day on Australia Day – Fremantle will be muted. The Mayor has commented on his discomfort at the mode of celebration, right now the most uncomfortable thing for Fremantle is to be muted.

If Fremantle is serious about being seen to be the “second city” of our metropolitan area – we need to shine. Not pass the joy to our neighbours.

I ask the Committee to not endorse the proposal.”

We also need to look back at what happened in Fremantle on that day before the fireworks were established. With no activation, groups of humans roamed the streets making new public installations of rubbish bins and glass, interspersed with quite aggressive interpretative dance. There aren’t many people that want to go back to that scenario.

It may well be that Fremantle is closed for business on Australia Day. Perhaps a well deserve rest day for all.