January 1, 2024

Sydney sparkles for a memorable New Year’s Eve fireworks bonanza

By Anthony Segaert
Updated January 1, 2024 — 2.02amfirst published December 31, 2023 — 10.31pm
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As the clocks hit midnight and 2024 arrived, Sydney welcomed in the new year the same way it always seems to: with bright lights and the world’s best fireworks.

The midnight fireworks, lasting about 12 minutes, featured a mesmerising display of sparkles that leapt off every available section of the Harbour Bridge and a handful of pontoons, boats and buildings around it.

Sydney Harbour Bridge lights up with fireworks on New Year’s Eve.Credit: Dion Georgopoulos

And as more than 1 million people made it into the city – and all attempted to make it home at a reasonable hour – crowds were awed by the new colours that featured in the fireworks show on Sunday night.

Peach, silver, violet, burnt orange and lime colours – plus more pastel shades – all featured for the first time.

The turnout was expected to be the highest in recent times – years of bushfires, COVID and expensive tickets gave way to a new but old normal. Spots to 38 of the 49 vantage spots across the harbour were free after the Minns government fulfilled an election promise from the state government to abolish paid ticketing at most spots.

But the renewed popularity of the event also caused authorities to plead with people moving across the city to be patient and to expect delays on the public transport system.

Mounted police push through a crowd gathered at the intersection of Young and Bridge streets to try to get a glimpse of Sydney’s midnight New Year’s Eve fireworks.Credit: Max Mason-Hubers

By 7pm the city had reached full capacity, with police and transport authorities telling people still headed into the city to return home and celebrate locally.

Even so, key vantage points within the city were packed out long before 7pm: by 11.20am, the City of Sydney warned viewing areas at Mrs Macquaries Point, the Royal Botanic Gardens, The Domain and Opera House areas were all full. By 5pm, Circular Quay was at capacity and Observatory Hill soon followed.

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At 9pm, the harbour city’s first fireworks of the night – Calling Country – were set off, the name recognising the connection Indigenous Australians have with their land, sea and sky.

The traditionally family-friendly fireworks were used by some parents to convince their children that the new year was being ushered in when the clock was at 9pm. Some were successful and others less so. But no matter how convinced Sydney’s children were, they couldn’t help but be blown away.

Revellers watch Sydney’s 9pm New Year’s Eve fireworks display from a bar at the Opera House.Credit: Max Mason-Hubers

From multiple barges across the harbour, red and orange fireworks dominated the sky, with occasional blue sparks shooting the highest.

The show, developed by Indigenous social enterprise group We Are Warriors, featured on the bridge’s pylons Indigenous warrior Pemulwuy, who was said to epitomise the values of strength, respect and fearlessness. The faces and names of Archie Roach, Eddie Mabo and Ruby Hunter were also projected.

More than 1 million people packed into every corner of Sydney Harbour to watch the early display. All evening, a shimmering line of blue light marked out the Harbour Bridge on an otherwise cloudy night.

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But before the fireworks, the light gave way to a dance-off. Bluey, Bandit and all the friends from the worldwide hit TV show were flossing on the pylons of the Harbour Bridge.

NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Anthony Cooke said people were generally well-behaved, though 19 arrests were made for various offences including assault and drug offences.

Two men were stabbed at Dowling Street in Woolloomooloo after a fight broke out. A 22-year-old man underwent surgery on Monday morning and a 30-year-old man is due to undergo surgery on Monday. Police took several witness statements and are reviewing CCTV footage as they search for a man they believe stabbed the two others.

New Year’s Eve celebrations were not limited to the revellers crammed around the harbour’s foreshore. Across the city, hundreds of thousands of Sydneysiders gathered to watch local fireworks displays.

In Coogee, in the east, thousands lined the beach to watch a 15-minute show, while those in Parramatta enjoyed a 9pm concert headlined by ARIA-awarding winning dance group Sneaky Sound System. It was also capped off with fireworks at Parramatta Park that its mayor said rivalled the CBD’s.

And the scene was repeated in Meadowbank, Frenchs Forest, Warwick Farm, and Penrith, among others. Those who could stay awake in Bayview, in the city’s far north, and Campbelltown, in the south-west, were treated to a double show, with the sky in both locations shimmering at both 9pm and midnight.

By 12.12am on Sydney Harbour, the last firework was set off, and smoke hung around the shores of the harbour as the sky returned to black. And before a million people turned their minds to the hellish journey home, there was a moment of collective celebration: a new year had arrived.

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Anthony Segaert is a reporter covering urban affairs at the Sydney Morning Herald.Connect via Twitter or email.
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