Chris Eichbaum. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

STEVE RENDLE
steve.rendle@age.co.nz

A Masterton man’s petition to end the retail sale of fireworks has been signed by nearly 8500 people in just six days.

Chris Eichbaum set up the online petition through the Parliament website after years of growing concern about fireworks.

“Each year I am forced to share vicariously the terror my dog goes through as a result of fireworks,” he said.

The dog in question is an Airedale terrier called Millie, who tries to find a dark, quiet place whenever she hears fireworks.

The New Zealand Veterinary Association has long supported calls to end the public sale of fireworks, and Eichbaum, an associate professor in the School of Government at Victoria University, says it is time the matter was looked at properly by a select committee.

“I’m not a killjoy,” he said. “I do appreciate that people, particularly families with children, derive pleasure from fireworks.

“But people are injured, some seriously, there is loss of property, and domestic animals are injured or traumatised.”

Eichbaum accepts some people will argue that the “nanny state” should leave fireworks alone, “but the costs of unsafe and inappropriate use of fireworks far outweigh the benefits”.

While fireworks can only be sold from November 2-5 each year, that doesn’t stop them being used over far longer periods.

“People do stockpile fireworks then use them at New Years or at parties – it’s not just one night.”

And the nature of fireworks also appeared to have changed over time.

“It used to be that the point of fireworks was to make a beautiful, colourful display – now it seems like the main goal is to make them as loud as possible.”

When Eichbaum first checked numbers supporting the petition at the weekend, he reckoned there were “a dozen or so”.

But by Tuesday afternoon, the number had swelled to 8418

“I’m frankly amazed,” he said.

“With that sort of support I think there’s a good chance of it getting to a select committee and hopefully having the sort of conversation we want.

“The petition is one way of helping ensure that there is a review with an opportunity for people to be heard, and I very much hope a change in the law.”

Masterton firefighter Mike Cornford said Guy Fawkes night in Wairarapa was usually quiet for the fire service, and this Monday was no exception.

“We weren’t called to any firework-related incidents.”

Eichbaum’s petition is open until November 30, and can be found on the NZ Parliament website: www.parliament.nz, search ‘Eichbaum petition’.