The popular annual fireworks display over Lake Wendouree could be moved to March to coincide with the Ballarat Begonia Festival, despite public consultation preferring a summertime event.
Councillors are set to decide on the future of the lakeside fireworks at Wednesday night's council meeting.
After council decided to substitute the annual Australia Day fireworks display for a significant cultural event on the recommendation of the Koorie Engagement Action Group in December 2020, a decision regarding the future of the fireworks was deferred until public consultation could be conducted.
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According to the public consultation, more than two-thirds of the 977 respondents, 64.8 per cent, preferred a fireworks display over a sound and light show and 26.1 per cent preferred either to take place during the Begonia Festival.
However, an overwhelming 45.4 per cent of respondents said they would prefer the fireworks or an alternative event to take place over the 'summer period'. Other options also included Christmas, Ballarat Harmony Festival or no show at all.
The Courier conducted its own survey in July, with Begonia Festival fireworks voted as the third-most popular option behind fireworks in summer and at Christmas, respectively.
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The December decision to move the fireworks was made at the first meeting of this council term and was won seven to two.
Councillors voting in favour of the move in December based their decision on community leadership regarding the future of January 26 while those voting against argued for more community consultation before a decision was made.
The decision identified January 26 for an 'intercultural celebration promoting understanding, respect and reconciliation featuring live music and performances'.
Council officers have recommended the fireworks be moved to the Begonia Festival as it would provide a greater benefit to the city than a summer event.
The council officer report said fireworks during council's Summer Sundays events program would only provide limited tourism benefit as it is a weekly event while fireworks on New Year's Eve would draw crowds away from the CBD and had the potential for alcohol-fueled anti-social behaviour.
Meanwhile, the report said the advantages of scheduling the fireworks during the Begonia Festival include adding nighttime activity to a predominantly daytime event and potentially increasing overnight visitation.
A fireworks display would also be significantly less expensive for council, costing $38,000 compared to more than $200,000 for a sound and light show.
City of Ballarat chief executive Evan King said while not during the summer, the Begonia Festival was not too far out of that.
"We absolutely understand the community said they'd like something in the summer period and the Begonia Festival is not that far out of the summer period, far enough out that conditions are probably a bit more conducive to a fireworks display and part of a Ballarat significant event and something that adds something to the Begonia Festival as well," he said.
"There are significant setup costs around sound and light displays and there's something about fireworks that captures everyone's imaginations. We've all stood there and watched them exploding all over the sky and everyone oohs and ahhs every time something explodes. It is something that clearly the community really enjoys."
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