Fireworks to ring in the New Year at Sydney Harbour will carry on despite strong opposition as Australia grapples with a wildfire crisis that began several months ago.
The New South Wales' Rural Fire Service announced that it approved the fireworks, which are watched by millions worldwide annually and draw thousands of tourists.
Not everyone was happy with the go-ahead for Sydney fireworks. New South Wales Deputy Premier John Barilaro said that continuing with the fireworks display doesn't respect the "exhausted" fire service volunteers, who have been battling blazes in several states. The ongoing crisis has also reignited debate on the effect of climate change on the world's driest inhabited continent.
Sydney's decision comes as thousands of people in the neighboring southwest state of Victoria were forced to evacuate a popular tourist spot about 200 miles east of Melbourne. Meanwhile, officials warned that strong winds in the forecast risk igniting more fires near Adelaide, as temperatures topped 104 F. across Australia's south and southeast.
In Sydney, the City Council ultimately rejected a petition signed by 270,000 people calling for its iconic display to be scrapped and the money donated to bush fire and drought relief projects, with officials saying the event generates $91 million for the local economy.
Canceling the event "would have little practical benefit for affected communities" and "seriously hurt Sydney businesses," the City Council said.