Heat and hail have been forecast across parts of the country as hundreds queue outside the Sydney Opera House to secure front-row seats for the New Year’s Eve fireworks.
Lines in Circular Quay began to form at 8am on Sunday as people sought to stake their claim to a view. By 11.24am, organisers announced the Sydney Opera House vantage point is full and advised members of the public to seek alternative options.
More than a million people are expected to gather across the harbour shoreline before fireworks this evening.
Sydney, which will be one of the world’s first major cities to celebrate, will ring in the New Year with 20 minutes of fireworks, a smoking ceremony, AI-driven projections onto the Harbour Bridge and illuminated boats on the water.
The lord mayor, Clover Moore, said the “eyes of the world will be watching Sydney” as people look forward to 2024 after a tough 12 months.
Moore hoped the new year “will be a much better year than 2023”, and that “in 2024 the people who are most hurting in our community from the cost-of-living crisis will get adequate support, especially people who are homeless and who are hungry”.
The City of Sydney’s fireworks director, Fortunato Foti, said onlookers could expect something a little different this year, with displays featuring bright white, peach, lime, silver, gold, violet, yellow, burnt orange, pink and blue fireworks.
With capacity limits in place and many ticketed-options for viewing the fireworks already sold out, people are being advised to turn up early as access will be provided on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Extra trains and buses have been put on for tonight, with drivers urged to stay out of Sydney due to widespread road closures.
The celebrations are among many being organised this year across Australian capitals and regional towns, despite heatwave conditions settling over parts of Queensland and northern New South Wales, and the potential for storms with heavy rain to disrupt plans. A wild weather system is forecast to stretch more than 1,000km from Port Macquarie in NSW to Rockhampton in Queensland.
In Melbourne, crowds are expected to be similar in size to New Year’s Eve 2022, when 475,000 flooded the CBD. This year a midnight fireworks display will have more lasers and projections than previous years, lighting up the skyline from 27 rooftops.
Perth will be treated to two explosive displays, one at 8pm from a barge on the Swan River and a second at 11.59pm, when fireworks on top of buildings dotted across the city will announce 2024.
Adelaide will celebrate with a fireworks display at Elder Park, with several other events being held around the city.
Brisbane’s official program has not yet been altered despite the trying weather conditions. South Bank Parklands will host two fireworks shows along the Brisbane River, one at 8.30pm and one at midnight.
More than 80,000 fireworks will illuminate the skyline in what is expected to be the biggest display in Brisbane’s history.
Gold Coast council initially considered cancelling some events, with a possible risk of fire amid the swelter, but continues to list them on its website, including 8pm fireworks at Coomera Sports poark and Broadwater Parklands, 8.30pm at Lake Orr Varsity Promenade and 9pm at Paradise Point Parklands.
Emergency crews will be on standby on New Year’s Eve with heavy rain, thunderstorms and giant hail forecast for parts of northern NSW and Queensland.
Weather bureau senior meteorologist Jonathan How urged residents to stay on top of flood warnings.
“At this stage, we’re not expecting widespread flooding but areas of heavy rain with thunderstorms could produce flash flooding as well as rapid rises in creeks, rivers and storm drains,” he said.
Strong wind warnings have also been issued for the Bryon coast in NSW and several coastal areas in Western Australia including the eastern and western Pilbara, Perth, Bunbury, Leeuwin, Esperance and Eucla.