Page 611 - Week 02 - Thursday, 20 February 2020

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MR RAMSAY: I thank Mr Pettersson for the question. Christmas celebrations in the city, courtesy of the City Renewal Authority, took a new and exciting direction in 2019, starting with our stunning new kaleidoscope Christmas tree. This new 16-metre tall tree designed by Keith Courtney is a very Australian reinterpretation of the classic Christmas tree. It is made from decorative polycarbonate panels, designed by Mat Colley, that sparkle in the sunlight and shine under the lights at night. The tree was a stunning centrepiece to the Garema Place Christmas hub, which included a mini Christmas tree forest and log huts full of craft activities including cookie decorating, bauble making and lantern making.

There were also great performances, throughout the lead-up to Christmas from choirs, musicians, circus performers and dancers. While fire danger and smoke prevented us from holding the New Year’s Eve celebrations in the city, and our scorching January affected a lot of outdoor events in Canberra, the ACT government was pleased to be able to put on a respectful and relatively low-key but very well-attended Australia Day concert.

I was pleased to be amongst the estimated 5,500 people, mostly young families, who attended a lunchtime concert in Commonwealth Park, with food, entertainment and fundraising designed to help the fire affected communities. While this was, and continues to be, a difficult time for many in the community, our government-funded events are important ways for us to create a space for people to connect with each other in friendship and solidarity.

MR PETTERSSON: Can the minister please outline for the Assembly what the effect of the bushfires was on some of these events and how the government responded?

MR RAMSAY: I thank Mr Pettersson for the supplementary question. With the unprecedently extreme and highly unpredictable weather conditions in January, which included dust, high wind, thunderstorms, fires and heavy smoke haze, we made the decision to cancel the New Year’s Eve in the city event and also to scale down the Australia Day event, and not to have fireworks at either of those events. All of those decisions were made on advice from relevant officials and agencies—and that included the Emergency Services Agency—about potential risks to staff, contractors and members of the public. With total fire bans in place and emergency service personnel at high alert, decisions about these events meant that emergency service resources would not be diverted from where they were needed by being called on to support the New Year’s Eve and Australia Day events.

Fireworks that were purchased for the two events will be available to use at EventsACT events later in 2020 when weather conditions are more favourable, for example at Enlighten or at Floriade NightFest.

I am pleased to note the almost universal community support for the decision not to run a New Year’s Eve event with fireworks in the city. It did not feel like much of a time to celebrate, with lives being lost and homes and habitat being destroyed around our region. I look forward to the upcoming season of festivals as Canberrans come together in this wonderful city.

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