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New Year’s Eve fireworks in Australia: ‘your cracker night could end in hospital’, authorities warn

New Year’s Eve fireworks in Australia: ‘your cracker night could end in hospital’, authorities warn


Hefty fines and even jail time are on the cards for those who set off illegal fireworks this New Year’s Eve.

People right across the country used to partake in the annual “cracker night” festival, setting off fireworks in their back yards, but most states and territories began banning this practice in the 1980s.

Tasmanians still celebrate cracker night in May, with fireworks illegal any other time, while Territorians are exempt from a fireworks ban on Territory Day on 1 July.

Despite some common misconceptions, fireworks were banned in the Australian Capital Territory in 2009.

New South Wales

It is illegal to buy, possess or discharge fireworks in NSW unless you have a pyrotechnician or single-use licence.

Although fireworks are not commercially available in the state, police said this does not stop people accessing them from interstate, online retailers or through other means.

According to SafeWork NSW, anyone found buying, selling or using fireworks without a licence is committing an offence and faces heavy penalties, from on-the-spot fines of up to $1,000 to imprisonment.

Only pyrotechnicians or people who have obtained a single-use licence can legally discharge fireworks in NSW. Photograph: Reuters

Fines can go up to $27,500 and people may face a prison sentence of up to 12 months.

SafeWork NSW must be notified of all fireworks displays and any authorised events will be listed on its website.

“Fireworks in the hands of unlicensed users is a surefire way to put people and property in danger,” the SafeWork NSW head, Natasha Mann, said earlier this year.

“Whether it is the guy with the lighter or the child standing too close to an explosive – your cracker night could end in hospital in a split second.”

Victoria

Fireworks are classed as a type of explosive under Victoria’s Dangerous Goods Act and it is a crime for anyone other than licensed pyrotechnician to use them.

Individuals convicted of illegally using fireworks in the state can face heavy penalties, including fines of up to $96,155 and up to five years in prison.

Ahead of New Year’s Eve, authorities warned of the risk of injuries, fires and property damage posed by illegal fireworks.

“Anyone thinking of using illegal fireworks or flares should reflect on whether they want to risk being responsible for the death or serious injury of another person,” Victoria police arson and explosives squad’s Det Insp Mark Kennedy said.

“If you’re caught with illegal fireworks, not only do you face a prison sentence of up to five years and thousands of dollars in fines, but you’re also putting yourself, your friends, family and the community in danger.”

The state recorded the greatest number of fireworks-related injuries in more than half a decade in 2022-23, with 23 people presenting to emergency departments with injuries – up from 16 the previous year. It was the largest number since 33 people were injured by fireworks in 2017-18.

People watch a sunset fireworks show for children and families while celebrating New Year’s Eve on the Yarra River waterfront
Authorities have urged revellers in Victoria not to let illegal fireworks ‘ruin the fun’ of New Year’s Eve. Photograph: Loren Elliott/Reuters

“It’s deeply concerning to see the number of people seeking emergency treatment for fireworks-related injuries rising again for the first time in recent years,” the WorkSafe Victoria executive director of health and safety, Narelle Beer, said.

“Enjoy your celebrations, but please don’t let illegal fireworks ruin the fun – there’s a very real risk that you or someone nearby could be seriously hurt.”

Fire authorities also urged Victorians to be aware of the dangers posed by setting off illegal fireworks, including potentially starting grass fires and bushfires.

“Following three wet seasons, we’re now seeing exceptional grass growth across Victoria that has started to significantly dry out, posing an enhanced risk of vegetation fires,” the Country Fire Authority chief officer, Jason Heffernan, said.

“Every year, our volunteer firefighters leave their family and friends on New Year’s Eve to respond, so we’re asking anyone tempted to use illegal fireworks to consider the risk to their own families and neighbours.”

Queensland

Fines of up to $50,000 apply to Queenslanders who possess or set off fireworks without a licence.

Fireworks displays can only be performed by professional contractors. A number of items have unrestricted use, such as sparklers, bonbons, streamer cones and caps for toy pistols.

Unlicensed use is an offence and carries a penalty, with fines up to $55,140 (400 penalty units) or six months in prison.

People watch early fireworks ahead of New Year’s Eve over the Brisbane River at Southbank in Brisbane, Queensland
Fireworks displays can only be performed by professional contractors in Queensland. Photograph: Glenn Hunt/EPA

If an animal is injured or killed due to illegal fireworks, offenders can also be sued for damages.

The annual cracker night was banned in 1972.

Australian Capital Territory

The general public is banned from using fireworks in the ACT.

Letting off fireworks in the territory is an offence under the Dangerous Substances Act, unless you hold a permit or have proper authority, and those who do so face fines of up to $4,800.

South Australia

Private use of fireworks is banned across South Australia, but pyrotechnicians can hold a public display if they notify SafeWork within five business days and are given approval.

If the display is during the fire danger season or during a total fire ban, permits must be obtained by the Country Fire Service.

South Australia police said if the fireworks were obtained illegally, used without a permit or the user did not comply with the conditions of their permit, an expiation notice can be issued.

The maximum penalty is $5,000. Fines issued under the explosives regulations range between $315 and $414, plus a $99 victims of crime levy.

Tasmania

It is illegal for the public to use fireworks at any time of the year, except for cracker night on 24 May.

Any Tasmanians over 18 can apply for a cracker night fireworks permit – approved for a 45-minute display at 7pm or 8.30pm.

Under the 2022 explosives regulations, people are required to keep a safe distance between where the explosive is stored and used, and any protected works. People must also comply with all the relevant codes and standards.

A fine of up to 150 penalty units ($29,250) may be issued.

Western Australia

The general public is banned from using fireworks in WA, except for “unrestricted fireworks”, including bonbons, party poppers, Christmas crackers, throwdowns and sparklers.

Those found to be illegally possessing or using fireworks can face thousands of dollars in fines.

Permits must be obtained to hold a fireworks event, with only a licensed fireworks operator or someone working in the presence of one allowed to set up and initiate fireworks at the event.

Northern Territory

It is illegal to use or possess fireworks in the NT at any time other than Territory Day on 1 July.

A fine of $1,660 applies.



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