Locals were left fuming on Saturday night after unexpected fireworks at Saxton Fields were heard as far out as Wakefield, Redwood Valley and Atawhai. Pet and livestock owners took to Facebook to try to find out what was happening, with many outraged they hadn’t been notified it was going to happen so could secure their animals in advance.

John Ivanof, owner of Combat Pyrotechnic Fireworks Displays, who put on the display for a circus-themed 50th birthday party at the Stoke venue, insisted that the fireworks were legal and “in accordance with the laws and government-approved code of practice”.

The Nelson City Council offices were inundated with calls on Monday by concerned residents who were told that John was asked to do a “courtesy flier drop to houses in the immediate vicinity” as a condition of sign-off for the display to go ahead.

But as the noise spanned a 15km radius, the scale of the flier distribution had been massively under managed. “I did a flier drop to the immediate neighbours warning them about the fireworks as per the Council’s request,” says John. “But it’s unrealistic to expect notification any further afield. Currently, there is no legal requirement to notify anyone that a display is even happening.” 

The wet weather and cloudy conditions meant the noise was amplified and possibly travelled further than on a dry, clear day.

“I was walking my dog at the Appleby River and he took off,” Marion Maxwell told a Facebook group. “If I’d have known about the fireworks, I would have been at home with the music going.”

Livestock at nearby Oaklands Milk Dairy Farm were also greatly affected. Samara Palmer wrote, “Shame they didn’t let us know at Oaklands right behind where they went off ¬- now there’s stock everywhere and four-day old calves who are beyond scared! It’s inconsiderate.”

Many residents didn’t immediately identify the explosions as fireworks either, as the low-lying cloud altered the sound, and they were terrified there was gunfire in the streets outside.

Christina Bloxsome, who lives in Stoke, told Facebook, “I almost called the cops to say there was gunshot fired outside our house!” While several others in Richmond complained of windows rattling and houses shaking throughout the display.

John says it all comes down to legislation and what is required by law. “I did everything within the legal requirement. Yet somebody has filed a complaint with the regulatory body demanding I get fined $300,000 or jailed. It’s really upsetting.”

Despite the dampner on the evening, others said they watched the display from afar and thought it was “spectacular”, which is another reason why John doesn’t shout about his displays from the rooftops.

“If I notify too many people about a firework display, then I run into a crowd problem,” says John. “And that comes with its own safety issues of crowd control and also road closures which is all an added and unnecessary expense.”

As well as the fireworks, the party had entertainment from jugglers, fire eaters and other circus acts.

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