Sydney New Year’s Eve: SOLD OUT

Now firstly, to be clear, not all the vantage points of Sydney New Year’s Eve (NYE) are sold out or reached capacity already.

Just mostly the good ones.

This year has seen an expansion of ticketed vantage points that now see some of the most iconic views of the event now sold out over a month before the event is held.  These views include areas where you could choose a spot to sit on the morning of the event.

Some of these ticketed areas aren’t paid areas too. That is, it is free of charge but you can still book a ticket.

So, this Sydney NYE, where were you planning to watch the fireworks from?

Here?:

View From Blues Point Reserve
Photograph: City Of Sydney

Sorry, sold out on the 22nd of November. What about here?:

View From Campbell’s Cove During Sydney NYE. Photograph: City Of Sydney

Sorry, that’s sold out too in early November. What about here?:

View From East Circular Quay. Photograph: City Of Sydney

Yeah, same as that last one – sold out.

Wait!!!! So where can I watch the fireworks????

The remaining spots are either very far away, got poor views, got very limited space of good views or cost heaps for a ticket. This year, 2.5 of the 7 kilometres of Sydney Harbour foreshore that provides a perfect view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge will be non-ticketed.

The 2 remaining spots we can recommend as allowing you to have a fair chance of getting a good view include Mary Booth Lookout… (If you don’t know where that is, here is the view):

View From Mary Booth Lookout. Photograph: City Of Sydney

This location has a capacity of 4500 people and last year, reached capacity at 2pm. Given the lack of good vantage points, this could reach capacity earlier this year.

…and the Sydney Opera House, which has a capacity of 7000 people and last year, reached capacity at 1pm. Like with Mary Booth Lookout, we expect this area to reach capacity earlier this year. This one particularly due to East Circular Quay being sold out already.

6.jpg
View Of The Midnight Fireworks Finale From Sydney Opera House Photograph: Sydney Opera House

So what’s wrong with the other vantage points?

Well, using the Sydney Opera House for starters, the only free sections are in a small corner on the north-western side of the Northern Forecourt and most of the Southern Forecourt.

Despite being a free vantage point, in the past decade, most of the Sydney Opera House has become ticketed.

  • Most of the Northern Forecourt is now home to a paid ticketed concert for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s broadcast of Sydney NYE. However, proceeds from ticketing go to charity.
  • The actual building is used for paid ticketed events.
  • The western side of the Sydney Opera House is mostly home to paid ticketed functions.

And obviously, if you are on the eastern side of the Sydney Opera House, you cannot see the Sydney Harbour Bridge. You will still see 3 barges of pyrotechnics, which whilst it is impressive, it isn’t what you went to the event for. You went for the Bridge.

Ok. So what about Mrs Macquaries Point?

That is mostly covered by trees or facing away from the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Again, only a very small portion of that Point has a good view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and that is right on the tip of the point. The whole western side of the Point is now mostly paid ticketed functions & these aren’t covered by trees. Queuing up overnight outside the Art Gallery Of New South Wales (NSW) for this vantage point has happened for a long time but since the paid ticketed functions were introduced, getting a good view at Mrs Macquaries Point is more prized because only a few would get a good view.

Where else then?

Uh….

  • Dawes Point – Sharp angle of Bridge & very crowded.
  • Hickson Road Reserve – Paid ticketed
  • Bradfield Park – Very sharp angle of Bridge & very crowded.
  • The Rocks – Buildings cover most of view & very crowded.
  • First Fleet Park – Crowded but you can’t see the Bridge at all.
  • Circular Quay Promenade – If you want to see a ferry terminal instead.
  • Cremorne Point – The lower half of the Bridge is blocked by the Kirribilli headland. If you want to see the iconic waterfall effect, don’t go here. From here, you will see most of the fireworks from the Bridge & from a couple of barges though.
  • Royal Botanic Gardens – (Paid) Ticketed and mostly good views. Good view of Bridge only if Sydney Opera House doesn’t block view.

What about the vantage points west of the Bridge?

The eastern side of the Bridge is the ‘show’ side of the Bridge. Most things happen on the eastern side of the Bridge so you’re very likely to miss a lot of entertainment on the western side of the Bridge. This doesn’t mean the fireworks won’t look spectacular – they just won’t be as good as compared to the eastern side.

Given Blues Point Reserve is now paid ticketed, vantage points in the town of East Balmain are now your best free option on the western side of the Bridge. However, they are not as iconic as Blues Point Reserve and have no view of the Sydney Opera House.

Are there more good vantage points on the east of the Bridge?

No…unless you are prepared to pay or want a distant view. The best location far away from the Bridge is Bradley’s Head but all that is paid ticketed. Strickland House has an iconic view (It is used in the television broadcasts). However, it is no longer an official vantage point & to watch the fireworks from there requires a paid ticket.

So, yeah, pretty much every good vantage point is gone. Only about 12,000 lucky people will get a good free vantage point on the day.

Ok. Well, I’m going to Mary Booth Lookout for NYE2019.

Hang on. Sorry, to break the bad news, but North Sydney Council is currently considering making all of it’s vantage points ticketed. So far, it is just Blues Point Reserve this year and that is just a trial. Also, Balls Head Reserve has been closed to the general public this year (NYE2018) due to environmental concerns. Anyway, Mary Booth Lookout is a North Sydney Council vantage point so there is a fair chance that will become ticketed for NYE2019 (and maybe further into the future).

Well, then Sydney Opera House.

Well, it does seem that the Sydney Opera House will be the sole good vantage point of Sydney NYE in the future that will be some what free of charge to enter. However, given the trend, it may seem likely that the Sydney Opera House will follow suit. And that will be that…

The Free Ticketed Vantage Points

However, firstly, remember earlier it was mentioned that some vantage points are ticketed but free of charge. Well, there are 3:

  1. Cahill Expressway
  2. Campbell’s Cove
  3. East Circular Quay

The latter 2 being 2 of the newly ticketed vantage points this year. Cahill Expressway has been free ticketed ever since it was first used as a vantage point in 2005. However, you need to be a NSW resident to enter the ballot for a ticket so there is a barrier to most of the general public but that is reasonable given nearly all NSW residents own the road (The NSW Government’s Roads & Maritime Services own the road). The ballot is also publicised very well every year.

The latter 2, whilst being open to everyone, weren’t publicised well. Despite a Property NSW (owner of those vantage points) spokesperson responding to our queries by saying they will “reach out to key publications for coverage”, their media release webpage shows no media releases publicising these tickets going on sale on the 6th of November, which would show their seriousness in promoting the newly ticketed vantage points. Simply contacting random publications, which could have happened based on that quote, wouldn’t be as serious. To compare, North Sydney Council who controls the now paid ticketed Blues Point Reserve, issued a media release that got reported in a few newspapers. No newspapers have reported East Circular Quay & Campbell’s Cove becoming ticketed.

The Property NSW spokesperson did say though that:

The ticketing will be promoted via the City of Sydney’s New Year’s Eve website. Property NSW will also promote the New Year’s Eve precincts via multiple consumer- facing channels, including The Rocks website, social media and electronic direct mail.

However, these would have reached only 2 major interest groups – tourists & people who have a great general interest in The Rocks and/or Campbell’s Cove and/or East Circular Quay. There is no effort to promote these vantage points becoming ticketed to Sydneysiders in general. You know, the people who are so accustomed to Sydney NYE being a non-ticketed event at East Circular Quay & Campbell’s Cove. At least North Sydney Council made an effort to let Sydneysiders know that Blues Point Reserve will become paid ticketed.

The tickets for Campbell’s Cove & East Circular Quay did sell out quickly and well before Sydneysiders even think about NYE, which is around early December. No doubt those tickets went to tourists due to the free pricing and brilliant views. There is no problem with that. However, Sydneysiders were left unaware of the ticketing. It leaves suspicion that maybe Property NSW might make those vantage points paid ticketing next year & into the future. A Property NSW spokesperson said in response to our queries:

A review of the ticketing system will be undertaken post NYE 2018. No decisions have been made regarding paid ticketing for future events.

The Property NSW spokesperson also said:

These areas have become ticketed to improve customer experience, manage crowd numbers and improve safety.

But that’s the thing. Ticketing doesn’t improve it. For many years, managed access (bag checks) have been done, capacity limits have been enforced and there isn’t anything different about the vantage points themselves on the day than what they will be like this year. All that is different now is that you need to book a ticket 2 months in advance. Why?

You can be the judge of that.

Other reasons that make it odd to add more ticketed areas include that the attendance of Sydney NYE has been declining by a million people in the last 5 years and the official organisers of the event, the City Of Sydney, actively try to reduce attendance due to the large crowds the event creates.

Given the trend, which has developed over the past decade, there is a possibility that these 3 vantage points could go from free to paid ticketing next year or sometime further into the future and then that will be that…

You might as well consider Sydney NYE fully ‘commercialised’ if that happens.

If that happened (the Sydney Opera House & those 3 free ticketed vantage points becoming fully paid ticketed vantage points), it will be impossible to get a good view without paying hundreds or thousands of dollars. And if you don’t have to do that, booking a ticket months in advance. And if you miss out on a ticket, expect poor views and/or a very far away vantage point and if you are close to the Harbour Bridge, ultra crowded locations – not just during the fireworks but all day – with limited views.

Can you imagine being squashed in like sardines in the middle of The Rocks all day?

The North Sydney Vantage Points

The main reason why the North Sydney vantage points are planned to become ticketed is because “Many sites are increasingly being ticketed and this is having a flow-on effect to North Sydney”

It’s reasonable to expect then that if North Sydney becomes fully ticketed, the “flow-on effect” will go somewhere else. Highly likely, this could be East Balmain or Dawes Point (the latter of which could also “flow-on” to The Rocks).

Sydney New Year’s Eve, at it’s core, is a City Of Sydney event. An event run by a local government. And not just an event, a community event.

If Sydneysiders have to face a barrier to access an event they are already paying for, this could be the tip of the iceberg.

Sydneysiders may refuse to allow their rates to go towards this event. If the City Of Sydney refuse to pay for this iconic event, things will get problematic.

City Of Sydney holds the rights to the event & even some copyright. They may grant a license to another entity to use their rights for a given period to run the event. This would bring in some extra revenue for the local government.

The most likely entity to pursue the rights are the NSW Government. However, the same problem arises. Why should Australian taxpayers (NSW doesn’t collect taxes – they receive most of their income from the Australian Government, who receive that income as tax from Australian taxpayers) pay for an event that has a barrier to access the event for the people paying for the event?

The next likely entity is a commerical operator. Imagination, the current creative directors of Sydney NYE, could maybe end up organising the event themselves particularly after their work doing the International Fleet Review Spectacular in 2013.

However, the event will have to rely completely on sponsorship unlike currently, where governmental funds make up a fair portion. If sponsors can’t promote their brands to a large community audience, the sponsorship value of the event may plummet and there will be no Sydney NYE anymore.

Last year, we predicted Vivid Sydney will reach a peak this year and that came true with it’s 1st attendance decline ever. We’re now predicting the commercialisation of Sydney NYE will destroy the event in the next few years. ‘Sydney Spectaculars’ (not our blog) is at it’s peak so enjoy it while it lasts. It’s been an amazing 2 decades. The growth of the ‘Sydney Spectaculars’ reminds us of the Roaring Twenties. Maybe we are approaching October 1929?

‘Corporate Box’-Style Seating

If you thought that was a sad idea, then get ready for this: Earlier, we mentioned that North Sydney Council is thinking of implementing paid ticketing at it’s vantage points. As mentioned earlier in our article, Blues Point Reserve has become a paid ticketed vantage point as a trial. Originally, North Sydney Council staff recommended that the Blues Point Reserve ticket price be in order to make a profit (with the profit going to fund the other non-ticketed vantage points of theirs) but North Sydney Councillors (all Independents) said no, the ticket price must be in order to just break-even, which is the price that has been implemented. The Councillors did, though, accept the staff recommendation that Balls Head Reserve should be closed as a vantage point this year due to environmental concerns.

The North Sydney Councillors also resolved to get their staff to develop a community engagement strategy and a report outlining revenue generating opportunities & cost recovery strategies for NYE. This was back in late May this year.

2 months later, the report was received by the Councillors. One of the options outlined was this:

Option 2: Temporary land licensing to corporate organisations

Advantages: This option is suitable for some sites and transfers organisational responsibility to third parties. Under this option, some Council venues would be managed as third party sites following the same principles as other existing third party events such as Spring Cycle and the Sydney Running Festival.

Disadvantages: Council would receive less income than it would from individual ticketing and would have less control over the style and price of event offered. While some organisations may want to lease land to provide a special experience for their customers or staff, it is likely that most would want to run a high-cost ticketed event to cover the cost of land hire and event operations. Council staff would be need to coordinate any NYE third party event as they do for existing third-party events on Council land and the land area outside the venue.

Now, this isn’t the recommended option. That is just plain ticketing. The ticketing option has been taken to community engagement, which finished this month. The Community Engagement Strategy that was requested in May was also delivered with the report mentioned earlier and the community engagement tried to follow that Strategy.

However, what if the North Sydney community reject ticketing of their vantage points? The next preferred option, according to North Sydney staff, is sponsorship and the report doesn’t make it clear whether ‘sponsorship’ can be combined with the option detailed above – the ‘corporate box’ option.

We call it the ‘corporate box’ option because that’s essentially what it is: Vantage points essentially ‘given’ to corporate organisations “to provide a special experience to their…staff”.

Can you imagine Commonwealth Bank at Blues Point Reserve, Facebook at Mary Booth Reserve and Telstra at Bradfield Park?

This may be a step too far especially after last month’s The Everest Barrier Draw controversy.

Even if they don’t use the vantage points for their staff or customers, North Sydney staff believe “it is likely that most would want to run a high-cost ticketed event” instead.

They compare this option with Spring Cycle & the Sydney Running Festival but they are different. Those events are held on the land by the event’s organisers. Sydney NYE is held mostly on and above Sydney Harbour – not in the North Sydney Council vantage points and those vantage points are managed by North Sydney Council – not Sydney NYE’s organiser, the City Of Sydney.

An exception to this is North Sydney Council’s Bradfield Park & Mary Booth Lookout, which are home to the Sydney Harbour Bridge pylon projection towers for the northern pylons.

This option should only be implemented in those 2 vantage points mentioned above and applicable to only corporate organisations who are sponsoring the projections on the northern pylons of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

We contacted North Sydney Council with a few queries about the ‘corporate box’-style vantage points and they just responded to all queries with:

Community feedback to the New Years Eve consultation is currently being collated. A report on the future of ticketing will be provided to Council in early 2019. The feedback will be included in the report.

So I guess we will have to wait & see.

Sydney NYE is, though, sadly become less of a public COMMUNITY event and more of a paid ticketed private CORPORATE/COMMERCIAL event.

It should be remembered that most of the Sydney Harbour foreshore has houses on it and they are very valuable, most likely owned by millionaires.

If you live in NSW and want Sydney NYE vantage points on public land or in publicly-owned venues around Sydney Harbour to remain free of charge, contact your local councillor (if your local government borders with Sydney Harbour) and/or your member of NSW parliament and/or the NSW Minister For Local Government and/or The Environment.

Did you mention Hickson Road Reserve earlier? Isn’t that the Sydney NYE Very Important Person (VIP) Viewing Area?

Yes and it was. Similar to last year’s cancellation of the Sydney NYE Lord Mayor’s Party, the City Of Sydney have decided to cancel the VIP Viewing Area for reasons unknown but highly likely because priorities lie elsewhere, like with the Lord Mayor’s Party cancellation. This leaves only the Lord Mayor’s Picnic of the Royal Botanic Gardens as the only original official event function left of Sydney NYE.

The owners of Hickson Road Reserve, Property NSW, have decided to replicate the VIP Viewing Area with 1 major difference – tickets are no longer free. You have to pay (though the pricing is just to break-even and not to make a profit).

This decision makes not much difference to Sydney NYE as Hickson Road Reserve has been an invitation-only ticketed area since 1996 and is one of the 1st few ticketed areas ever organised for the event. This ticketed area, since it was introduced to last year, was also different from all other ticketed vantage points – it was a ticketed vantage point of the official organiser of Sydney NYE, the City Of Sydney.

However, now it is paid ticketed, it adds to concerns about the commercialisation of Sydney NYE.

UPDATE – 3rd December 2018, 4:11pm AEDT:

The City Of Sydney, official organiser of Sydney New Year’s Eve, have tweeted this post today:

UPDATE – 11th December 2018, 4:11pm AEDT:

The event guides for Sydney NYE2018 – ‘The Pulse Of Sydney’ were released online recently. A notable thing to point out about this year’s event guides is the vantage point map – very high profile vantage points are left off the map. Why? Because they are sold out at the time of publication of the event guides. There are large gaps in the map as a result.

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