'Get our priorities right': Thousands call for Sydney's NYE fireworks to be cancelled amid bushfires

As parts of Australia are threatened by severe droughts and devastating fires, thousands of Australians have added their names to a petition calling for the money spent on the annual New Year’s Eve fireworks display at Sydney Harbour to be donated to bushfire victims and Aussie farmers.

At the time of publication more than 6,750 people had signed the petition calling on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to pull the cord on the midnight countdown.

Last year the Australian Financial Review reported the New Year’s Eve extravaganza that lights up parts of harbour cost a staggering $5.8 million.

Thousands of people around Australia are experiencing drought (left) while others are watching entire towns burn to the ground (right). Source: AAP

An average of one million people flocked to Sydney Harbour and its surrounds last year to see the fireworks live, bringing in $133 million to the local economy.

The event is also streamed live around the world with an audience of one billion people watching one of the first cities on earth to ring in the new year.

The petition was started by Camden resident Kayla Neale five days ago.

“With Australia facing drought and now catastrophic fires, decimating towns as it tears across our country, the thought of spending MILLIONS (sic) of dollars on a firework display when it could be used to support and rebuild our country instead is infuriating,” she said.

“Join me in petitioning that the funds for the 2019/2020 New Years Firework display in Sydney are instead allocated to the Aussie farmers affected by drought and the Aussie citizens affected by the fires. 

Last year the Sydney NYE celebration costs $5.8 million and raised $133 million in revenue. Source: City of Sydney

“It's times like these when we as a nation need to look at our priorities and I believe the new year should be welcomed in in the Aussie way; by giving our fellow Australians a helping hand.”

One petition support said: “We need to get our priorities right.”

“The government needs to wake up and realise that there are more important things than looking good on the world stage, like ensuring the people of this country still have somewhere to live and aren’t driven from their homes by fire or lack of water,” another person wrote.

“Take a selfless gap year Sydney. Tourism will survive. It's not all about making profits,” a third supporter said.

A fourth person added: “To have fireworks this year is in poor taste. Stop the QLD fireworks as well.”

A City of Sydney spokesperson told Yahoo news Australia the event was more that just a night to ring in the new year.

“The event unites people from all over Australia and the world, with a message of hope, happiness and celebration,” the spokesperson said.

Last year the City of Sydney donated more than $200,000 to drought affected communities.

This year the council is proposing to increase donations with discussions happening on Monday.

The council will consider donating “$300,000 to the Country Women's Association of NSW Drought Aid appeal, $300,000 to the NSW Rural Fire Services and $20,000 to WIRES to assist wildlife recovery and rehoming”, the spokesperson said.

“The meeting will also see the City match staff donations to bushfire and drought appeals dollar for dollar, and offer in-kind support to firefighting efforts, bushfire relief and post-emergency clean-up, such as water trucks, other council service vehicles and staff.”

Grim fire day for Queensland

Residents of a tiny town on the Queensland and NSW border are being urged to immediately shelter from a raging bushfire as the sun set on another grim day for firefighters across the state.

The fire, burning in the area of Mount Lindesay, forms part of the Mount Barney blaze that suddenly flared on Saturday afternoon.

It is one of two fires covered by an emergency warning.

The other is at Pechey, north of Toowoomba, with residents of Ravensbourne being told to leave immediately.

It comes as weather conditions are forecast to deteriorate further across the parched state on Sunday.

"Tomorrow will be a day of significant concern," Deputy Premier Jackie Trad said on Saturday.

She acknowledged the work of professional, volunteer, interstate and international fire crews who have worked around the clock to defend homes.

"We are so grateful for all of the hard work you are putting in to make sure our communities, our people are safe, and we stand with you as we go through the rest of the fire season."

Firefighters backburn along Putty Road in Colo Heights in Sydney on Saturday. Source: AAP

About 149,000 hectares of bush and private land have burnt in the past 10 weeks.

The Darling Downs and Granite Belt will bear the brunt on Sunday, with extreme fire conditions expected.

The fast-moving Pechey/Ravensbourne blaze was burning over a large area in Ravensbourne between Purtill Road and Beh Road on Saturday afternoon.

Authorites expect it to impact Brennen Road, Oakdale Road, McQuillan Road, Purtill Road, Garvey Road, Horrex Road, Philp Road, Esk Hampton Road (between Horrex Road and McQuillan Road), Ravensbourne Dip Road, Saunders Road, Quail Road, Tessman Road, Christy Road and Ryan Road.

People are being told to leave a fire impacting on the town of Cowan and surrounding camping areas on Moreton Island, with authorities saying conditions there are getting worse.

They are also being told to be ready to flee fires at Kinkuna Waters and Woodgate/Walkers Point Road south of Bundaberg.

Walkers Point Road and Jarretts Road are open to residents under police control, and Woodgate Road remains open in both directions.

Heidkes Road is closed between Jarretts Road and Walkers Point Road.

Another major fire is burning at Tarome in the Scenic Rim region and Palen Creek, which is part of the Mount Barney fire.

People are being told to be ready to leave those areas because those fires could get worse quickly.

There is no end in sight for the dire fire threat to the south, with the state gripped by dangerous conditions into next week.

Isolated storms cells have been forecast for later on Saturday, potentially with dry lightning that could ignite more bushfires.

Bushfires have destroyed 16 homes in Queensland over the past week.

More homes lost in NSW bushfires

Another 44 homes have been confirmed destroyed by NSW bushfires, taking the number razed statewide in the past nine days to 303.

NSW Rural Fire Service late on Saturday afternoon said 102 homes had been damaged - up 15 since the last update on Friday morning.

Some 785 sheds and other outbuildings have been damaged or destroyed in the fires since November 8, while 38 schools and other facilities have been impacted.

More than 2600 buildings in areas directly affected by fire have been saved, the RFS said.

Almost 2000 firefighters and support people on Saturday worked to establish containment lines around dozens of blazes - including more than 30 yet to be contained.

Backburning continued around the massive Gospers Mountain blaze on Sydney's northwestern outskirts, which has already burned through an area larger than Canberra.

"It's unlikely we'll have it contained before more dangerous conditions come," NSW Rural Fire Service Inspector Ben Shepherd told AAP on Saturday.

The Rural Fire Service has continued to advise those in the village of Colo Heights and Putty, west of the Hawkesbury River, to leave immediately if they are not prepared to defend their property.

Several other communities have been advised to know what to do if the fire approaches.

'Watch and act' messages were also current late on Saturday for communities near Nambucca Heads, Kempsey, the Richmond Valley, the Nightcap National Park and Woodenbong on the Queensland-NSW border.

"All of those fires have moved this afternoon," Mr Shepherd said.

"This is a huge area we're dealing with. This will take some time to extinguish."

Total fire bans will be in place for five NSW regions on Sunday - the Greater Hunter, Far North Coast, New England, Northern Slopes and North Western.

A slight reduction in fire danger is expected on Monday before very high to severe conditions mid-week, Mr Shepherd said.

Donations to The Red Cross Disaster Relief and Recovery fund can be made online or by calling 1800-RED-CROSS (733 276).

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