No mood for tightening fireworks rules - Chris Hipkins

The AM Show 05/11/2019

Education Minister Chris Hipkins doesn't believe the public wants rules around Guy Fawkes to be tightened up.

With Tuesday marking the annual Guy Fawkes celebration, firefighters are urging people letting off fireworks in their backyard to take extra care. 

Since fireworks went on sale over the weekend, there have been more than 40 callouts for emergency services. There were 14 last night alone. There are also concerns from the SPCA, which says Guy Fawkes can be extremely stressful for animals.

But Hipkins - who appeared on The AM Show in the place of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern who is overseas - says the Government has no plan to change the rules. He doesn't believe there is a mood for it.

"No, I don't think there is really any mood at this point to change the rules around Guy Fawkes. I think you have seen over the last decade or so, things have tightened up significantly," he said on Tuesday.

The amount of time you can use fireworks is already pretty restrictive.

"We want people to be responsible in their use of fireworks, but we don't have any intention to change the existing rules around that."

In 2007, the previous Labour-led Government restricted sales to just four days a year, raised the legal purchase age to 18 and restricted their explosive power. 

Since then, the number of ACC claims has trended downwards, statistics provided to Newshub show - particularly over the past two years. The number of Fire and Emergency callouts has also been declining in recent years - from 180 in the first five days of November 2015 to just 111 last year. 

But many Auckland residents want the private use of fireworks banned. Public consultation on that at the end of 2018 found 89 percent of respondents supported a ban.

Hipkins said Kiwis are typically pretty responsible and the actions of a few shouldn't ruin the occasion for everyone. 

They are sensible, they are responsible, and they shouldn't be punished for the actions of a few idiots.

"We should take a pretty low tolerance approach to those people who spoil it for everyone else. As a community, we should all be saying to people don't be idiots about this.

"My message to all New Zealanders is be responsible, be considerate and be careful."

National Party leader Simon Bridges agrees, telling Magic Talk on Monday that "law-abiding" Kiwis shouldn't lose their right to let fireworks off in their backyards. 

"You end up banning something the vast majority of law-abiding people do well for a few idiots," he said.

Todd O'Donoghue, a spokesperson for Fire and Emergency NZ, told Newshub he was in favour of people going to view fireworks at public events.

"We are encouraging this public conversation about if they should or shouldn't be banned. Ultimately fire-safety is a community responsibility and we're pleased the public are talking about it."

The AM Show / Newshub reporter Jamie Ensor