Kerre McIvor: Idiots and alcohol too explosive

It seems inevitable that Guy Fawkes night in New Zealand will be consigned to history.
It seems inevitable that Guy Fawkes night in New Zealand will be consigned to history.

I love fireworks - I really do - but surely it's only a matter of time before the public sale of fireworks is banned.

Yet another night of emergency services being run ragged right around the country and another night of pet owners and livestock holders trying to pacify terrified animals. You have to wonder whether the communal cost is worth the individual benefit.

Traditionalists argue that it's all good fun. In a politically correct world gone mad, it's imperative that there are still opportunities to let off small explosives that provide big bangs and a lot of colour.

We have to remember who we are and where we've come from, European New Zealanders argue. We had a couple of callers on our talkback show this week maintaining that it's a good thing to celebrate a bloke who knew how to stick two fingers to authority. A few more like Guy Fawkes in this country and it would be a better place.

Well, no. Guy Fawkes, or Guido as his Spanish mates knew him, failed in his plot to assassinate James I and members of the British House of Lords in 1605 and the letting off of fireworks commemorates that failure - but I accept that over time he's become a symbol of anti-authoritarianism.

Others say it's important for the kids to have the joy and excitement that comes with Guy Fawkes night although I would argue that it's the parents - the dads in particular - who seem to get the biggest thrills out of setting fire to fuses and waiting for the explosions.

All of these people have a point. Fireworks are fun and that little element of danger involved in lighting gunpowder makes it all the more exciting.

It's just that we've imported a British tradition that's the wrong time of year for this country, situated as we are in the Southern Hemisphere.

November 5 in Britain is the beginning of winter. It gets dark early, birds aren't nesting, the weather is cool and the ground is damp and there's little chance of extensive bushfires.

In New Zealand, it's spring. The days are getting long and kids have to wait until around 9pm before they can start scribbling in the air with their sparklers. Animals are birthing, birds are nesting and in some areas, it's been weeks without rain. (Not Auckland. Auckland in springtime is a damp squib. But other places are susceptible to fire.)

It's easy to see why Australia banned the sale of fireworks to individuals. Except in the Northern Territory. Although that rogue state doesn't celebrate Guy Fawkes, it does have Cracker Night - a one night only bang fest on July 1, a tradition that has been maintained in the face of countless petitions and objections.

Not even an incident that saw one of the state's finest young men stick a Bumble Bee firecracker up his bum and set it alight could persuade the state government that combining idiots, alcohol and explosives was a really, really bad idea. (The aforementioned idiot survived, by the way.)

If the Northern Territory government can arbitrarily move Guy Fawkes night to a date that better suits them, and this is what they did in 1980, then surely we can do the same.

Mataariki would be perfect. Indian and Chinese people celebrate their New Year with fireworks - we could celebrate the Maori New Year which typically occurs in late May or early June.

Surely a far better and more appropriate time to set off fireworks. Or we could do as my colleague Mark Dye suggested - make fireworks available all year round. Then there wouldn't be the mad frenzy to buy and bang that we see during the weeks of November. If fireworks were being let off all-year round, animals would become desensitised to the noise and the flashes and wouldn't assume the world was ending come November 5.

Either way, unless people are more responsible, it seems inevitable that Guy Fawkes night in New Zealand, like Guy Fawkes himself, will be consigned to history.

- NZ Herald

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