Perth’s Australia Day Skyworks will proceed next year following weeks of uncertainty and a report by City of Perth staff recommending the event be cancelled.
The City of Perth commissioners voted unanimously in favour of the 250,000-person event at a meeting on Tuesday night, following support from WA Premier Mark McGowan.
They also voted for the usual New Year’s Eve celebrations in Northbridge to proceed, as well as a series of Christmas concerts in Forrest Place in lieu of the Christmas Nativity event held at the Supreme Court Gardens.
The commissioners agreed to proceed with the events provided no physical distancing was required when they are held.
“However, if any physical distancing requirements are in place when these events are scheduled, the City of Perth will need to reconsider going ahead with any major events, including Skyworks,” City of Perth chair commissioner Andrew Hammond said.
The decision to continue planning for the events came despite a report by council staff which recommended all the celebrations be cancelled or minimised because of the financial risk of planning the events, should they need to be cancelled late for health reasons.
The report showed that should all three events be cancelled at late notice, it would cost the city more than $3.7 million.
It suggested more flexible and small-scale events instead, including a twilight market and a Birak concert celebrating Indigenous culture and music, be planned for Australia Day instead.
The report also outlined that planning for the Australia Day Skyworks event should ideally begin 10 months out, and at the latest should have started last Friday.
Lifting of restrictions a difference-maker
Mr Hammond made an appeal at the meeting, saying when the report was prepared, staff were not aware of the stage four and five lifting of restrictions.
He said he was now comfortable for the planning of the events to proceed as normal, so long as suppliers agree to share in the financial risks if the events were later scrapped.
His appeal also addressed concerns of a second wave of coronavirus infections and said if outbreaks occurred in a specific location, like had happened in Victoria, the state government was expected to manage the outbreaks and lessen the need for events to be cancelled.
Mr Hammond said the Christmas concerts would involve local musicians and entertainers and schools within the City of Perth would be invited to be involved, while the New Year’s Eve events at Northbridge would include a mix of mobile entertainment rather than being based at a static stage.
He said there was certainly not universal support from stakeholders and ratepayers for the events to go ahead, but the commissioners had made the decision purely based on the risks surrounding coronavirus.
He said it should be incumbent on the incoming council members to weigh up the future of the Skyworks event, given the controversy of celebrating Australia Day and the high cost of putting on the event.
The Skyworks display along the Swan River has been running for 36 years and has only been cancelled once since its inception.
In 2017, the event was cancelled just hours before it was due to go ahead when a light plane crashed into the river, killing a man and woman in front of crowds of onlookers.