Farewell 2016 – welcome 2017.
New Zealand has welcomed in the dawn of the new year, with thousands of revellers packing out bars, party hotspots and family friendly events the length of the country.
Fine weather in most of the country’s main centres and popular holiday destinations – including the Bay of Plenty, Bay of Islands, Gisborne, Coromandel, Taupo and Queenstown – increased spirits in the hours leading up to midnight.
Fireworks displays at a host of events around the country marked the arrival of 2017 – but none more spectacular than the display which lit up the Auckland skyline.
As the clock struck midnight a fireworks spectacular display roared into life off the upper levels of the Sky Tower to ensure the year started with a bang in the City of Sails. The display included 500kg of fireworks, featuring about 3000 individual explosions.
The extravaganza – which took months to arrange – lasted five minutes and 20 seconds and was soaked up by tens of thousands of onlookers at vantage points across the central city and in high-lying suburban areas.
Cities in Samoa, Tonga and Kiribati were the first to welcome the new year. Across the Tasman flaming starbursts and raining firecrackers filled the sky above Sydney Harbour for a 9pm display (local time) – the first round of the biggest New Year’s Eve fireworks display the city has seen.
Back here, at Auckland’s Viaduct Harbour, the punters and publicans were already getting into the New Year’s groove by 5.30pm.
O’Hagans Irish Bar duty manager Callum Bryden was expecting one of the busiest nights of the year, perhaps only second to St Patrick’s Day.
But he didn’t expect too much of a problem with people getting drunk and disorderly.
“Generally people are just out to have a good time so hopefully it’ll be the same again. But we’ve got plenty of security on in case.”
Sara Twister was hoping to earn a few bucks from the revelry in a different way.
The acrobat was setting up her archery show – “I shoot a bow and arrow with my feet” – next to the Wynyard Quarter bridge.
She said New Year’s crowds were generally good fun, but had no doubt she’d have to deal with the odd obnoxious drunkard.
“Oh yeah, of course there’ll always be a few but you learn to brush it off – it’s part of the trade.”
Rob Dickens and his two mates were at the Wondergardens music festival at Silo Park.
He’d learned from previous New Year’s Eves that it was always a good idea to lower one’s expectations.
“Overall New Year’s is a bit overblown. You tend to go into it with high expectations and they’re usually disappointed. So we’re trying to have a moderate point of view and whatever’s good’s good.”
Down the other end of Wynyard Quarter, Andy Coles was less philosophical.
“I’m gonna get slaughtered.”
Auckland’s big New Year celebrations are spearheaded by the annual fireworks display set off from the Sky Tower.
More than 500kg of explosives will be ignited during the spectacular show. In the two hours before midnight a Kiwi-themed laser animation is being beamed across the tower.
In Hamilton farmers Troy Mahon, Marc Callis and Cullum Armstrong, all 25, said they might not see in the New Year on account of having to get up at 4am to milk cows.
“I’m going to go straight through,” Armstrong said. “I’m going to try and see it out.”
The trio, from Matamata, Huntly and Hamilton respectively, were at The Local Taphouse with partners and said it would be dinner and drinks and a relatively early night.
They said they couldn’t complain about 2016 but were looking forward to a better and brighter new year.
New Years’ resolutions included “taking it one day at a time” and “acting our age”.
Bar staff Emily Simpson, Emily Chambers and Michaela Soffe said they were expecting a busy night.
Two of the 21-year-olds had worked at The Bank Bar and Brasserie last New Years’ Eve and said the crowds would arrive around 11pm. Until then it would be busy with dinner bookings.
“It will hit around 11 and we’ll be flat out. Last year it was really good, really busy.”
Soffe said her New Year’s resolution was to find some direction in her life, having studied four different careers in as many years including nursing, travel and tourism, outdoor recreation and business.
At Lone Star on Victoria St, Pirongia farmers Linda and Graeme Chubb had the best seat in the house at a window bar overlooking the comings and goings of the main street.
Graeme, 60, said he’d be tucked up in bed before the big countdown because he also had to get up at 4am to milk cows.
The couple said they were enjoying a beverage before heading across the road to Bluestone Steakhouse for dinner with two other couples.
Graeme’s New Year’s resolution was to “behave myself” and 55-year-old Linda added: “And mine is to make sure he does”.
The pair said they often came to Hamilton to celebrate New Year’s Eve because it was close to home and enjoyable.
Kawhia and Raglan are busy but without disorder incidents according to police.
Hamilton city remains relatively quiet.
Celebrations in Whangamata, a notorious New Year’s Eve hot spot, started ramping up about 9pm.
A police spokeswoman said at that stage it appeared there had been three arrests so far for drunk and disorderly behaviour and about six breaches of the liquor ban.
One person had been taken back to police headquarters to sober up.
The spokeswoman said a large group of teenagers partying with loud music on an empty section had been spoken to by police over the liquor ban, while another group had been moved on.
Bay of Plenty
In the Bay of Plenty, thousands of New Year’s revellers were expected to see in the big night at Mount Maunganui.
Entertainment included the Frequency music party at ASB Baypark.
At Tauranga, around 200 people turned out to a harbourside family event as the year’s last sunset fell over the central city.
One of the many mums in the crowd, Sarah Johnson, was happy to “not be having a rowdy New Year’s” as she and daughter Leila McDonald, 5, settled in for the 9.30pm fireworks display over the waterfront.
Rather than reflecting on the year that was, Johnson said her thoughts were fixed on what 2017 would bring.
The Tauranga local could be sure of one thing it would: a baby, in the next few weeks.
Nearby, Tauranga Mayor Greg Brownless was manning the tongs in a barbecue put on as part of the sponsored free event.
He said it was great to see so many families out enjoying the warm New Year’s Eve weather and a safe, relaxed atmosphere.
Brownless hoped the rest of the New Year period went without trouble for the city, which in past years had seen rioting and booze-fuelled problems.
Although no official New Year’s Eve event had been organised at the Mount, police had still set up at the hotspot a special processing centre – known to many in previous years as Alcatraz.
Brownless said that, despite there being well enough police and emergency personnel to deal with any issues, it was up to revellers to ensure the period wasn’t remembered for the wrong reasons.
“It’s called self-responsibility,” he said.
One of the biggest bashes in New Zealand was the final night of the popular Rhythm and Vines festival at Waiohika Estate vineyard near Gisborne.
The festival attracted tens of thousands of music fans and partygoers who were set to be entertained by a host of leading musos, including the Jordan Luck Band.
In Wellington, festivities include a family friendly event at Whairepo Lagoon and at Frank Kitts Park on the Wellington waterfront featuring a fireworks display.
Andrew Hertzog and Heather Seal were relaxing by the waterfront as they waited for friends to join them for New Year celebrations.
“We’re meeting with a group and then going from there,” Seal said.
Seal, from the US, and Hertzog, from Australia, were part of a tour group visiting New Zealand for the holiday period.
They both agreed 2016 had “ended pretty well” thanks to their holiday and hoped to spend 2017 travelling.
“Travel more and more,” Seal said. “Work less, travel more.”
Her resolution was simple: “Stay healthy, stay kind, stay travelly.”
Avery Carroll and Koppany Visnyei said they would not be sorry to see 2016 go.
The tourists from Los Angeles were enjoying a drink down outside a pub on Wellington’s waterfront and said they would “see where the night takes us and see what Wellington has to offer”.
Carroll said they were excited to ring in New Year’s in one of the first places in the world to celebrate it.
“We’re excited to see how the other half of the world celebrates New Year’s.”
Carroll said 2016 had been “terrible” and “chaotic”.
“We went through a very disruptive election . . . I think 2016 was a bit of a punch in the face. We lost too many good people and elected too many bad people.”
Nevertheless, he was looking forward to a “bright” 2017.
Visnyei, originally from Hungary, still thought the year was “great” but said it was hard to be hopeful for next year with what was happening politically in the US.
“[It’s] not necessarily history repeating itself . . . the pendulum is spinning back towards nationalism and conservatism and that is scaring me.”
Despite his fears for what would happen in politics next year, Visnyei believed he would have a great 2017.
Thousands of fans headed to UB40’s New Year’s Eve gig at the Taupo Ampitheatre.
In the lead-up the band put a message on their Facebook page stating: “The calm before the storm in New Zealand! Bring on NYE.”
A huge crowd was expected in Christchurch for free festivities at Hagley Park.
Crowds were gathering as thousands of people prepared to ring in the New Year at the Octagon.
Dunedin City Council community events co-ordinator Marilyn Anderson estimated 20,000 turned up to take in the festivities last year and had her fingers crossed for a similarly-sized crowd tonight.
The Robbie Burns cannon was to mark the end of 2016 followed by a fireworks display from the Civic Centre roof and a rendition of Auld Lang Syne.
Matamata’s Christine Edde just made it to Dunedin this afternoon during a South Island road trip and was armed with a coffee to see her through to midnight.
She rated 2016 as “not bad” and said she was in no hurry to make any New Year’s resolutions yet.
Ms Anderson said there was something on offer for all the family and urged young and old to get involved this evening.
“Don’t stay at home, don’t leave town; come to the Octagon.”
Weather across the country is forecast to be fine tonight, with Gisborne expected to be the warmest with temperatures hitting 27C earlier today.
– additional reporting ODT