Falcone in a fire fight

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Queenstown’s “Mr Pyro­technics” is fired up after council’s regulator called his New Year’s Eve fireworks plan “legally deficient”.

Lakes Environmental inspector Bruce McDonald has also threatened fireworks organiser Bill Falcone with a ban if he doesn’t make changes.

McDonald’s told Falcone he’ll apply to the Department of Labour for a compliance order banning the popular Queenstown Bay display if he doesn’t change his test certificate.

And if Falcone ignores the order, he could be prosecuted.

McDonald’s main problem is Falcone doesn’t plan to remove moored boats by the Gardens from his “exclusion zone”.

A stunned Falcone, who’s run the past 10 New Year’s Eve fireworks displays, says his test certificate was issued by New Zealand’s foremost fireworks expert, Ian Donald, of Cambridge.

Falcone: “I contacted other test certifiers and experts in the industry and they all agreed on our position.”

Falcone also has backing from longtime local harbourmaster Marty Black. An email from Black to Falcone says though moored boats may be “slightly” in the exclusion zone, there’s never been a problem.

“I just keep getting letters threatening prosecution, it’s just wearing thin,” Falcone says.

“Every time we do a show we have drama because those guys interpret stuff differently than anybody else who has any experience in the industry.”

People have no idea the extent he goes to, to make his displays safe, Falcone says, claiming he’ll reconsider doing next week’s fireworks while a prosecution threat hangs over his head.

LE boss Hamish Dobbie says because the fireworks are an on-water display, Maritime NZ has the final say-so.

“MNZ have had a look at it and they’ve come back and said they’re happy with it, and that’s the end of the matter as far as we’re concerned.”

But LE, under its contract with DOL, was justified in calling Falcone’s test certificate “legally deficient”, Dobbie maintains.

“We have an obligation from a safety point of view to look at that and we’d be negligent in our duties if we didn’t.

“It’s beyond our power to say that you can go ahead and have boats in the exclusion zone when the regulations say you can’t.”

Dobbie says LE has looked closely at fireworks safety since shells landed amongst the crowd during last year’s Queenstown Winter Festival display, with one spectator receiving minor burns.

Following an investigation, LE said the two organisers, including Falcone – and Donald who certified the plan – should be charged. DOL, however, shelved the prosecution.

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