Ballarat's annual fireworks display over Lake Wendouree will now take place in January during the Summer Sundays series following a decision by councillors.
Councillors voted six to three in favour of an alternate motion moved by south ward councillor Tracey Hargreaves to schedule the fireworks on any one of four Sunday nights in January as part of the Summer Sundays program.
The motion went against the officer recommendation to move the fireworks display to the Ballarat Begonia Festival, but was in line with the results of community consultation which were overwhelmingly in favour of a summertime event.
According to a community survey on council's MySay platform, 45.4 per cent of respondents preferred an event to take place during the summer period while 26.1 per cent preferred the Begonia Festival.
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The community was overwhelmingly in favour of continuing the fireworks display, with 64.8 per cent preferring it over a sound and light show or no show at all.
The move was made after council decided in December to no longer have a fireworks display as part of its Australia Day activities on January 26.
According to the December resolution, Ballarat's Australia Day activities would be an 'intercultural celebration promoting understanding, respect and reconciliation featuring live music and performances' with entertainment to profile Indigenous culture.
Council was due to decide on the future of the fireworks at the following council meeting in January, but resolved to defer the item until public consultation was undertaken.
While a sound and light show was floated, it appeared to be somewhat cost-prohibitive, costing between $200,000 and $250,000, compared to $38,000 for a fireworks display.
The officer report said it was important the fireworks be aligned with an existing council-run event to ensure consistency and longevity and increase tourism opportunities.
The report said by combining the fireworks with the multi-day Begonia Festival, it would add a night-time activity to a primarily daytime event, attract more people to both events and potentially increase overnight stays in Ballarat.
Cr Hargreaves said she believed fireworks in January would best serve the community and could be aligned with a night market-type of event as part of Summer Sundays.
"In terms of using the fireworks as an event to attract visitor economy, I don't really see that as a big priority, personally, because the fireworks are paid for by City of Ballarat residents from their rates, it's more of a community event," she said.
"People have memories of seeing fireworks at the lake since they were kids and bringing their families and really enjoying that. I would see it as more of an event that we would put on for our community.
"My preference, and I think the preference of the community, would be to run with something in our summer when residents can enjoy it, be out on lake, walking around and that lines up best with a January event to me."
North ward councillor Amy Johnson, who seconded the alternate motion, said when council goes out to the community, it needed to listen.
"I think it's really important when we go out to Ballarat residents and ask for feedback, that we actually listen to them and take it onboard and use that to inform our decisions as much as possible," she said.
"It's really tricky to justify going against the results of community surveys and feedback that we receive, otherwise, why are we asking people in the first place?"
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