A map of The Rocks for New Year’s Eve 2022 published on The Rocks website for event spectators shows no entry/exit gate at the western end of Jack Munday Place despite an entry/exit gate shown in spectator footage being located there during a crowd crush on New Year’s Eve.
The gate shown in the video, whilst closed for capacity reasons at the time of the crowd crush, is clearly for entry/exit purposes with a sign attached to the gate saying ‘conditions of entry’.
Sydney Spectaculars has circled in red the crowd crush location in the map above that The Rocks published online for event spectators. As you can see, there is no mention of an entry/exit gate to be located there. There is, however, 8 entry/exit gates shown on the map. 2 of which are for free vantage points – East Circular Quay (Gate E1) & Dawes Point (Tar-ra) Park (Gate 13 and likely Gate 16 as well).
The Rocks is a free vantage point as well with the gates opening in the video to it. This is evident as a nearby electronic variable messaging sign says ‘Rocks Now Closed’. The Rocks, whilst free, was not a ticketed vantage point.
Notably, out of all the vantage points featured on the above map, The Rocks is the only vantage point without foreshore access, which might explain why the gate was not featured on the map. Another reason is that The Rocks normally does not fill up until 11pm on NYE.
While no official attendance figure has been published yet, Sydney New Year’s Eve 2022 is expected to have had the highest attendance on record – over 2 million people – as a result of being the 1st celebrations largely unaffected by the COVID-19 pandemic since 2020. This came as vantage points filled up at 6:47pm, 4 hours quicker than usual, except the main locations (Sydney Opera House/East Circular Quay) which filled up at the usual time in the late-morning & mid-afternoon respectively.
The Rocks had a capacity of 18,000 a week ago, which might sound a lot if it was not for the fact that this is a decrease of more than half of the capacity it was on NYE2019 – 40,000!
Why would the capacity of The Rocks be halved when one of the largest crowds ever were expected to attend the event? NYE2020 & 2021 were lowered due to public health concerns but it is also likely that recent temporary design changes to George Street in The Rocks made from September 2020 such as making it an one-way southbound-only street between Argyle Street & the Cahill Expressway to include alfresco dining probably has reduced event capacity significantly. It was announced a few days prior to NYE2022 that the changes will be made permanent. It should be noted that the temporary changes are harder to relocate temporarily (concrete blocks etc.) than if it was permanent (just tables, chairs & umbrellas).
Though it was not the main cause of the crowd crush, rather a contributory cause, no doubt, the use of alfresco dining during major events, particularly after 11pm on NYE, will need to be reviewed as it takes up valuable spectator space. The main cause of the crowd crush probably was poor communication of either the use of alternative unofficial vantage points (such as the back streets of the suburb of Dawes Point assuming they were not full as well, which is a 5-minute walk away. It should be pointed out this is not on the ‘show’ side of the Sydney Harbour Bridge) or the full capacity of The Rocks throughout the city via outdoor advertising, radio and/or the Internet (We were monitoring the Sydney NYE website throughout the day and the event & did not see the 6:47pm ‘All Vantages Points Closed’ announcement leading us to think until the new year that crowds were still low (but higher than NYE2021) and why aren’t other free vantage points except the Opera House & East Circular Quay filling up like usual?)
Spectators could have been redirected to Darling Harbour. However, that area’s fireworks is not considered part of the official event, even if it is listed on the Sydney NYE website as an official vantage point. There are views of the fireworks but at a distance of 2 kilometres away so spectators may have resisted making the 2km trek back there.
The Rocks were contacted by Sydney Spectaculars about the map but they did not respond to our query by the time of publication.
On January 1, following media inquiries about the crowd crush, a statement was issued by the City Of Sydney:
We work with multiple government agencies on crowd management plans well ahead of time, so incidents are dealt with quickly and people can enjoy their night.City Of Sydney spokesperson
The City Of Sydney were contacted by Sydney Spectaculars for a copy of the crowd management plan for The Rocks vantage point but they were “unable to share the document”.