From fireworks to festival?

There have been calls for a fresh look at the Merimbula New Year’s Eve event and consideration of how it might be changed into a festival.

The news that there would be no New Year’s Eve event at Ford Park provoked a lot of discussion on the News Weekly’s Facebook page with people concerned about the effect on tourists, disappointed the event wasn’t happening and some suggesting Berrambool as an alternative location.

But past president of the Merimbula Chamber of Commerce Nigel Ayling said he understood the decision.

“It's a major event and despite the financial support it receives from council, the event has always been run by a handful of dedicated volunteers. It requires months of planning and on the day, a mountain of work. I spent 20 hours straight on site there one year.

“Organisation of the event was passed over to Merimbula Tourism a few years ago and they have done an excellent job running it with only one or two paid staff and a handful of volunteers. The location has always been a challenge with access and parking and Berrambool might be a better location but it has access problems too,” Mr Ayling commented.

He suggested that maybe it was time to look at expanding it to have a seaside fair for a week although he warned that it would need serious numbers of volunteers.

“So if you are one of the many people complaining about why it's not happening, maybe next time consider putting your hand up to help. Merimbula is a great place and we have some wonderful assets but all of these events take a lot of work. Hopefully this decision may spark some positive action,” Mr Ayling added.

The idea of a festival spread across the first week of January is something that tourism manager at Merimbula Visitor Information Centre Chris Nicholls has also considered.

“It’s time for a complete redesign,” he said.

“It’s time to rebuild it into a modern festival event. It (the New Year’s Eve event) has grown by itself without any serious thought or planning. Maybe there is a way of distributing some of the value around the town,” Mr Nicholls said.

“This was not an easy decision; we talked with Bega Valley Shire Council and with the police,” he said in reference to the cancellation. 

Council’s general manager Leanne Barnes has said that council is working with Merimbula Tourism to ensure that there will still be fireworks on New Year’s Eve although not at Ford Park

“There will be two lots of fireworks and we’re trying to work through the land and minor issues,” Ms Barnes said.

Asked about the cancellation Ms Barnes pointed to the paperwork that was required.

“The DA for the event requires a number of things to be done. Chris (Chris Nicholls) has only been in the role for a couple of months. We will sit down with them early in the new year and start planning for next year,” Ms Barnes said.

Acting Inspector Adam Kite at Bega Police said he thought the event was going ahead and only discovered it was not happening on Wednesday morning.

He denied that the police had a role in the event’s demise.

“We are not the fun police,” Inspector Kite said.

In the past local police have welcomed the chance to have New Year’s Eve party-goers in one spot but Inspector Kite said police would still maintain a strong presence around all locations.

Police wanted the event to be alcohol-free but the proposal was rejected by council.