Revellers came out in far greater numbers than expected to celebrate New Year, with early estimates of about 2 million people crowding around the central city area. This was nearly half a million more than predicted.
The huge crowd made for a great party but also foreshadowed future problems about managing the burgeoning event.
Ten years ago, the crowd was half that number.
”The event has just become more and more popular, and that is something that we will have to take into consideration,” lord mayor Clover Moore, said.
As the celebrations grow larger so does the challenge of managing that number of people.
More than 170 people were arrested in the Sydney and northern area – another 13 were were sent to the sobering-up centre – in what the police viewed as a successful New Year’s Eve operation.
“Generally the crowds were well behaved, when you have that number of people,” NSW Police acting deputy commissioner David Hudson said.
”But as predicted a couple of days ago, we did have certain individuals who saw fit to ruin the evening for a number of people – exacerbated by excessive consumption of alcohol.”
The alcohol exclusion zones were very important, he said. The increase in those areas meant people with children could visit the city to enjoy the fireworks ”confident that they were not going to be standing next to some drunk or someone who’s going to be violent towards them”.
But by the early hours of New Year’s Day thousands of revellers had flocked to Beare Park in Elizabeth Bay – a venue with no alcohol ban – where residents reported that the party had become unruly.
”They started coming onto our property and climbing on cars and using our garden as a toilet,” said Jana Masarova, who lives adjacent to the park. There were only three toilets in the park, which was already full of drunk people, she said.
”We had planned to go down there to have a look at the fireworks but it was too dangerous,” Ms Masarova said.
The City of Sydney promised that the park would be better managed next year. ”[We] will consult with residents and police to minimise any behaviour that could mar this wonderful event,” a spokesman said.
Cr Moore, said the site had been overrun by an unexpected influx of backpackers and tourists and that the city’s cleaners had recovered several passports from the site.
Cr Moore on Wednesday morning visited the park, where a peak of 50 cleaners worked from daybreak until after lunch gathering four tonnes of rubbish and cleaning up broken glass on their hands and knees. This was just part of an extensive clean-up operation involving more than 350 workers and 60 trucks collecting 58 tonnes of rubbish, and which cost the city $300,000.
The lord mayor said she would consult with the state government about how better to manage crowds next year.
But she said she was against levying additional fees on revellers as a means of controlling numbers.
Despite a bashing in Kings Cross which left a teenager in a critical condition, emergency services said the celebrations were broadly in line with their expectations.
”The crowd swelled early in the evening making it difficult for our paramedics to move in and around,” NSW Ambulance deputy commissioner Mike Willis said.
Police said their crowd control efforts were successful, notwithstanding the arrests. ”You have to be realistic about the number of people [and] the amount of alcohol that is consumed,” Mr Hudson said.
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