Sydney's New Year's Eve celebrations kick off with welcome to country and family fireworks

Sydney has once again proved why its New Year celebrations are world famous, with bursts of brilliance providing a spectacular backdrop to the Harbour Bridge and Opera House as Australia welcomed in 2016.

Synchronised to a soundtrack of some of 2015's biggest hits, including Uptown Funk and Hold Back the River, the almost 15-minute fireworks show sent crowds into rapturous cheers and applause.

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Happy New Year Sydney!

Sydney welcomes in 2016 with a spectacular fireworks display across the harbour. (Vision courtesy ABC News)

The $7 million party kicked off early on Thursday, with a vast and proud Aboriginal Welcome to Country ceremony ushering in the iconic fireworks display, putting local Gadigal, Wangal and Gamaragal traditions front and centre in global new year celebrations.

At 8.40pm the Sydney Harbour Bridge was transformed into a giant canvas, using new technologies to present the world's oldest dance form in honour of Australia's First Nations culture, land and peoples.

True colours: the midnight New Year's Eve fireworks on Sydney Harbour.
True colours: the midnight New Year's Eve fireworks on Sydney Harbour. Photo: Janie Barrett

Fireworks and special effects turned the structure into a giant Aboriginal flag, complete with a red waterfall cascading from the bridge base shortly after the sun set for the last time in 2015.

Sail boats, yachts and private ferries took up position on the harbour, for prime positions early on Thursday.


On land, the best vantage points filled up hours before the clock struck 12.

And the massive crowds that filled the Harbourside parks and reserves had claimed their prime positions early – some camping out for days to secure their spot.

The fireworks seen from Barangaroo park.
The fireworks seen from Barangaroo park. Photo: Brook Mitchell

The Sydney Opera House grounds were full by 2.30pm, with crowds settling in for a nine-and-a-half hour wait for the midnight fireworks. 

Mrs Macquarie's Chair and Mary Booth reached capacity by 4.30pm, followed by Circular Quay and Blues Point Reserve about 5.30pm. 

Major roads were closed across Sydney's CBD from 6pm, with most revellers heeding advice for officials to use public transport to get around town. 

Thousands of extra police officers were on duty, having planned for 12 months for the city's New Year's Eve celebrations. Crowd control was a priority for officers on the foreshore.

Officers patrolled on foot and horseback, on the public transport network and on the water, keeping an eye on the massive crowds that flocked to the water's edge. NSW Ambulance paramedics were also out in force.

NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Mick Fuller said there had only been a small number of arrests overnight.

"At this stage we've only had 30 arrests and half of those were for drug-related matters and a handful of assaults which is a fabulous result for Sydney," he said.

"With only a few exceptions, the vast majority of people in the city for New Year's Eve behaved safely, sensibly and responsibly."

Incidents included the arrests of a 57-year-old man in Dover Heights over an alleged hoax bomb threat, and brawls in the Leichhardt and Balmain areas shortly after midnight.  

The City of Sydney information booths were taken over by the Thomas Kelly Youth Foundation's Safe Spaces, with volunteers ready to help revellers get home safely.

with AAP