Judging by the flurry of letters to this newspaper at this time each year, what mostly gets on people's wick about fireworks is the extended period these part-time pyromaniacs carry on igniting their incendiaries.
From the moment the outlets begin sales, suburban neighbourhoods start popping, banging and ka-thumping with explosions. It's a far cry from the wild, heady days when freer rein was given widespread selling and the maximum range of kilotons permissible. But the nuisance factor remains capable of raising high levels of annoyance and distress.
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We have already done well in constraining the cacophony with strict rules, particularly in 2007, around buying and selling fireworks. Fireworks are only sold for the three days up to Guy Fawkes – November 2-5. You must be 18 years old and have valid ID to buy fireworks, as is the case with alcohol. Most local councils have laws to stop fireworks being lit in public places such as parks or beaches.
The commonsense approach is to show respect to neighbours, especially those with young children or animals. Good folks put fireworks away after 10.30pm – the sun sets at about 8pm at this time of year so that provides an ample window to fire up the fun times.
The reality, however, is there are no rules about when during the year enthusiasts can set fireworks off and this seems to be an anachronism in these times of heightened fire risks. Nor are there any limits on the time of night or day for lighting up - but one can only wonder what people are hoping to see when setting off fireworks in the middle of the afternoon.
New Zealand has dutifully gone where England went by taking November 5 as the date to mark the thwarted plot by Guy Fawkes and his cronies to blow up Parliament. In the UK, this coincides with the cooling autumn season. Not so Downunder, where we embark on the warmer and, often, drier spells. Such is our wont, many pyro purchases are stockpiled for the Christmas and New Year celebrations, far from ideal as we hit the arid parts of the annum.
If it is not time to entirely ban personal use, perhaps it is time to prohibit the private use of fireworks except within the very limited period people still cling to the tradition of Guy Fawkes?
Such a move is unlikely to raise much ire, as evinced by the generally positive reaction to Countdown supermarkets forgoing sales this year. It found 66 per cent of customers surveyed rarely or never bought them anyway. It seems there are less of us buying them while those who do retain the capacity to annoy the blazes out of everyone else.
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Enforcement of a much more limited time period might be difficult but at least it would put up a signal, for those who need reminding, that their activities are an irritation and an endangerment - and the worst of offenders could receive a short, sharp slap.