Petition to ban fireworks “modernising our rules”

Green Party animal welfare spokesperson Gareth Hughes has accepted a the petition, Hughes said that the private sale of fireworks was dangerous.

Retweeted by Green co-leader @MaramaDavidson

I haven’t bought fireworks for a long time, possibly not in this century, so I have no personal interest in whether I can buy fireworks or not.

I’m aware of issues with personal harm risks and fire risks and adverse effects on pets and animals.

But I have concerns. ‘Modernising our rules’ is a euphemism for BAN – rules to restrict personal choice.

This is not the only fireworks petition on the go.

Petition of Chris Eichbaum – Cease retail sales of fireworks

Published date: 1 Nov 2018

Petition request

That the House of Representatives pass legislation to prohibit the retail sale of fireworks, and institute licensing arrangements for individuals or organisations to responsibly detonate fireworks in public displays approved by the relevant territorial local authority.

Petition reason

At present fireworks can be lawfully sold to any person over the age of 18 years. Accidents involving fireworks result in injuries to many, and to young people disproportionately. Domestic animals are often traumatised by fireworks and their retail sale is opposed by the NZ Veterinary Association that has repeatedly called for a ban. Legislation should facilitate public fireworks displays that are managed by licensed providers and approved by the relevant territorial local authority.


Petition of Melanie Lindstrom – Ban the private sale of fireworks and promote Matariki for public displays

Published date: 13 Nov 2018

Petition request

That the House of Representatives pass legislation banning the private sale of fireworks and urge the Government to promote Matariki, rather than Guy Fawkes, as a culturally significant occasion for public firework displays.

Petition reason

The private sale of fireworks at Guy Fawkes is a commercial enterprise that I believe harms New Zealand. We see distressed pets and wildlife, burn injuries, and multiple fire service callouts. We need to shake off our colonial overcoats and be more culturally responsive to our tangata whenua. Celebrating a failed gunpowder plot from England in 1605 makes no sense in 2018.

‘Guy Fawkes’ is not a ‘commercial enterprise’, it is an opportunity for free trade of goods for sale for entertainment purposes. There is very little celebration of the 1605 gunpowder plot in England.

Celebrating 2000 year old disputed history at Christmas makes no more sense, but some old traditions survive. An attempt to ban Christmas probably wouldn’t go down well (ditto Easter and even the recently adopted tradition Halloween).

But a good practical case can be made for moving fireworks use to Matariki, in the middle of winter when it is dark by 6 pm.  It is a long wait up for kids on 5 November with it not getting properly dark (in southern New Zealand at least) until 10 pm.

If fireworks are banned because they can cause harm what else could be petitioned? A ban on bikes, scooters and skateboards? Kids often get harmed when using them. Ban TV and computers and mobile phones? They have harmful effects.

Guy Fawkes versus Parihaka

Today is Guy Fawkes Day, the anniversary of and attempt to blow up a parliament on the other side of the world over four centuries ago.

It is still ‘celebrated’ in New Zealand, but to an ever diminishing extent as increasingly severe restrictions on the sale of fireworks has gradually deterred individuals and families from buying stuff to burn. We gave up burning stuffed ‘Guys’ decades ago.

Is it time to consider commemorating something of local importance instead?

This is suggested in the ODT: A place for peace

On November 5, 1605, a tip-off led to Fawkes’ arrest in the parliament cellar where he was found nursing 36 barrels of gunpowder and a serious intent. He was tortured and executed. The day was then marked throughout England with an annual celebration that included bonfires, the burning of “Guy” effigies and fireworks.

But the truth is that most people in New Zealand know little, and care less, about who Guy Fawkes was and what he did.

Typifying the attitude, one dad shared on social media, “My girl just told me it’s `gay fox’ season …”

November the 5th also marks an important event in New Zealand history.

On that date, in 1881, almost 1600 armed soldiers invaded the western Taranaki settlement of Parihaka.

Parihaka had been established by Te Whiti, a Maori prophet who combined Christian and traditional Maori teachings.

His most distinctive belief, which he and his thousands of followers practised tirelessly, was a rejection of violence, even when resisting injustice.

This radical approach was first tested in 1879, when the colonial government tried to occupy land in Taranaki. Te Whiti and his right-hand man, Tohu Kakahi, responded with homegrown, non-violent civil disobedience. They sent out men to put fences across roads and to plough disputed land.

The ploughing was a literal application of a biblical prophecy that a day of peace would come when people “beat their swords into ploughshares”.

Hundreds of “Parihaka ploughmen” were arrested and sent South.

Between 1879 and 1881, almost 140 Parihaka ploughmen were sent to Dunedin as prisoners. A decade earlier, more than 70 men from Taranaki were imprisoned here for having supported south Taranaki leader Titokowaru in a war against land confiscation. Titokowaru later worked with Te Whiti to resist the confiscations.

Passive resistance against oppressive colonialists.

When released a couple of years later, they and others returned to Parihaka and to their ploughing.

In response, in October 1881, the government gave Te Whiti and his followers 14 days to leave their settlement; or else.

When the volunteer and armed constabulary troops arrived at Parihaka on November 5, ready for battle, they were greeted by several thousand Maori sitting quietly on the marae while the children of the settlement greeted the soldiers with song and poi.

Te Whiti and Tohu were arrested, much of the village was destroyed and the people dispersed.

It was a national disgrace.

Almost three centuries previous, when Fawkes was questioned by King James I about his foiled plan, he pithily replied, “a dangerous disease requires a desperate remedy”.

Te Whiti would have agreed. He and Fawkes were radicals. But one embraced terror and the other peace.

They may have shared a date, but Te Whiti’s own biblical motto – “Peace on earth and goodwill among men” – took him in a completely different direction.

That sounds a bit like Christmas but it is also an appropriate response to the gunpowder plot.

So it comes as no surprise that several New Zealanders have called for the celebration of Fawkes’ failed assassinations in England to be dropped in favour of Te Whiti’s non-violent resistance at Parihaka.

At the forefront, at a political level, has been the Maori Party. Then co-leaders, Tariana Turia, in 2011, and Marama Fox, in 2015, called for Parliament to “formally recognise the fifth of November as Parihaka Day to commemorate the peaceful resolution of conflict in New Zealand”.

The Maori Party is now out of Parliament, but Parihaka Day momentum appears to be growing.

Te Whiti’s passive resistance is of international significance.

It may even have influenced Gandhi – his first practised passive resistance was as a young lawyer in South Africa in the early years of last century.

Prior to that, he trained as a lawyer in London in the late-1880s.

It was a time and place in which a number of people were thinking about how best to solve conflicts.

“That in New Zealand, we had this tribal people who had arrived at this way of resolving what seemed an intractable conflict – the ill-effects of colonisation – and they had done it independently of anyone else in the world.”

Speaking from Parihaka this week, Ruakere Hond, who is the speaker for Te Paepae o te Raukura, said community members favoured a “national day of remembrance”.

Why not November 5th?

In response to questions from the ODT, Mahuta said Parihaka had become a symbol of peaceful resistance and self-determination against oppression.

A national Parihaka Day on November 5 would “signify our maturity as a nation that wants to embrace biculturalism and the principles of peace and respect”, she says.

That sounds a lot more appropriate for New Zealand in the 21st century – we should be doing the opposite of commemorating terrorism and torture.

November fireworks fizzing out?

Should Guy Fawkes and November fireworks be allowed to fizzle out?

There are growing numbers of complaints about fire risks and frightening pets, but late daylight makes this time of year impractical for kids. There’s a tendency to get impatient and start at dusk, too early for the best visual effects.

I don’t really care about it. I’ve heard a bit but haven’t seen a single thing this year – and have a five year old in the household. We largely ignored it all.

This is a huge contrast to my childhood, when we experimented with crackers, stuffed a Guy, built bonfires and stayed up late (with no daylight saving?)

NZ Herald editorial: Guy Fawkes Night – cracker or fizzer?

Fireworks, done well, are a treat for all the family. Fireworks done badly, as it will be done tonight, is a disappointment at best, a danger always, terrifying for pets and an annoyance to neighbours. Why do we continue with Guy Fawkes?

For the children, most people would say. Little children get a thrill when Dad lights their sparklers and lets off some rockets in the backyard. Remembering our own innocent pleasure we wonder whether we have the right as jaded adults to deny the experience to the next generation of little ones.

But the truth is, the kids will get far more enjoyment from a real fireworks display, lying on the ground with parents and a crowd around, watching explosions of colour overhead. The sequences are far longer and the variety so much better than anything that can comes in a bag from a store at this time of year.

So why do we persist with the backyard variety? Perhaps because the occasion hardly warrants a public effort.

Guy Fawkes marks a minor act of attempted terrorism long ago and far away. Nobody knows much about it and nobody cares. It’s an artefact of English heritage that would be no loss. It comes soon after Halloween which New Zealand children now mark in American style and have much more fun than a few firecrackers can give them.

How much better, for them and everyone who enjoys fireworks, if it marked an event with meaning in New Zealand. Matariki possibly, which occurs in winter when darkness comes early.

I think that November 5 will persist, albeit on a reducing scale.

It is already common now to have major fireworks displays at New Year.

It would be good to brighten up our winters with a bit of a show – why not Matariki?


Pet friendly fireworks

It’s the 5th of November today, over 400 hundred years since the gunpowder plot that it sort of commemorates. It has toned down a bit in recent decades, we tend not to burn people on bonfires any more.

Guy Fawkes (aka Guido Fawkes and Guido Johnson) was actually tortured – “the gentler Tortures are to be first used unto him et sic per gradus ad ima tenditur [and so by degrees proceeding to the worst]” – and he revealed the identities of his fellow plotters.

They were to be “put to death halfway between heaven and earth as unworthy of both”. Their genitals would be cut off and burnt before their eyes, and their bowels and hearts removed. They would then be decapitated, and the dismembered parts of their bodies displayed so that they might become “prey for the fowls of the air”.

On 31 January 1606, Fawkes and three others – Thomas Wintour, Ambrose Rookwood, and Robert Keyes – were dragged (i.e. drawn) from the Tower on wattled hurdles to the Old Palace Yard at Westminster, opposite the building they had attempted to destroy. His fellow plotters were then hanged and quartered.

Fawkes was the last to stand on the scaffold. He asked for forgiveness of the King and state, while keeping up his “crosses and idle ceremonies” (Catholic practices). Weakened by torture and aided by the hangman, Fawkes began to climb the ladder to the noose, but either through jumping to his death or climbing too high so the rope was incorrectly set, he managed to avoid the agony of the latter part of his execution by breaking his neck. His lifeless body was nevertheless quartered and, as was the custom,  his body parts were then distributed to “the four corners of the kingdom”, to be displayed as a warning to other would-be traitors.

They were gruesome times, but they weren’t burnt..

On 5 November 1605 Londoners were encouraged to celebrate the King’s escape from assassination by lighting bonfires, “always provided that ‘this testemonye of joy be carefull done without any danger or disorder'”.

An Act of Parliament designated each 5 November as a day of thanksgiving for “the joyful day of deliverance”, and remained in force until 1859.

Bonfires were accompanied by fireworks from the 1650s onwards, and it became the custom to burn an effigy (usually the pope) after 1673, when the heir presumptive, James, Duke of York, made his conversion to Catholicism public. Effigies of other notable figures who have become targets for the public’s ire, such as Paul Kruger and Margaret Thatcher, have also found their way onto the bonfires, although most modern effigies are of Fawkes.The “guy” is normally created by children, from old clothes, newspapers, and a mask.

Things like that were still practiced in New Zealand fifty years ago. I’m not sure when we switched to just toned down fireworks.

Isn’t it a bit odd that we ‘celebrate’ with fireworks but none actually went off on 5th November  1605?

Back to the present, pets and wildlife scaring has already started over the last few nights. If you want to enjoy some fireworks and spare your pets put headphones on and watch something that really went up in London.

Fireworks versus nanny state

Is the gradual clampdown on the sale and use of fireworks a reasonable and acceptable response to irresponsible behaviour and inherent dangers?

Or is it an unacceptable creep of nanny state?

When I was a child a bonfire and rockets were the highlight of Guy Fawkes night but crackers were a lot of fun in the lead up days. We made Guy’s and burnt them without any idea of the grim history of punishment it depicted, it was just fun.

Crackers were banned by the time I had my own children. Sales have been restricted more and more.

We seem to be moving towards public fireworks displays only, conducted by professionals. The are much more dramatic but strictly hands off.

This doesn’t affect me personally with kids grown up now and no interest in DIY any more.

The down sides of fireworks are significant – injury, starting fires accidentally and scaring pets and livestock are not insignificant.

But are we and our kids being cotton-wooled too much?

Is it protecting us from ourselves, or from a few excessive fools?