Lord Mayor Clover Moore is furious the State Government is charging admission to see the fireworks that the Sydney ratepayer has footed the bill for.
- Property NSW defended charging for a previously free event at Hickson Road Reserve
- Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore described the ticket prices as “outrageous”
- Regular New Year’s Eve campers complained about a black scrim blocking the view of the Opera House
“I frankly think that is outrageous that they’re trying to make money out of something we’re putting on to bring the community together harmoniously,” Ms Moore said.
“People are concerned about many of the sites around the city being ticketed.
“I just want to stress … this is a free community event.
“Free for our locals, free for our interstate visitors and free to our overseas visitors, all the city-owned sites are free.
“Any of those that are ticketed are ticketed by Property for NSW or the Royal Botanic Gardens Trust.”
Ms Moore’s broadside at the State Government for a perceived monetisation of New Year’s Eve was made at Hickson Road Reserve, in an area cordoned off to non-ticket holders.
Admission to the event started at $55 before they sold out alongside dozens of other private sites across Sydney Harbour.
It was previously free.
Less than 30 metres away, both local and international revellers had been camping since 6:00am alongside Hickson Road and on the grassy knoll facing the Sydney Opera House.
Mick* has staked at the same stretch of footpath every New Year’s Eve for over 25 years and brings cards to play with his teenage sons to help the 16 hours pass.
He said a black scrim stretching along the harbour, blocking the view of the Sydney Opera House, had gone up for the first time this year.
“You could probably fit a thousand people along this stretch to watch the fireworks,” he said.
“I understand the fence is useful for keeping drunks from falling into the harbour, but it doesn’t make sense you can’t see past it.”
Mick sneaked behind the barrier and found nothing but bare pavement.
Across the road, 29-year-old Richard had been camped out since 10:00am with his family and his relatives who were visiting from China.
He said he would typically go down to Campbell’s Cove, near his home, to watch the fireworks but to his surprise discovered they were charging for admission this year.
“Little bit annoyed, can understand some of the reasons why they might do it,” he said.
“[But the tickets] they’re all sold out now anyway — this is one of the last few unticketed places on the headlands we could find.”
A Property NSW spokesperson defended charging for access to Hickson Road Reserve and said it was the only venue they managed which had admission costs.
“We do not make money on this event and the ticket price pays for live music, entertainment and security over the course of the event,” he said.
“This year marks the first time in years in which Hickson Road Reserve has been available to the public on New Year’s Eve, having previously been used for a private function.
“All other venues managed by Property NSW are free to the public.”
Joseph O’Donoghue from Keep Sydney Open said the “blueprint” for ticketing was implemented in 2011 by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, which charged for entry to the Botanical Gardens and Bradleys Head.
He said the “template” has since been refined and local councils have been encouraged by police to adopt it, since it eases pressure with an additional security presence.
Mr O’Donoghue said safety was “bandied about” as a justification despite Sydney being the world’s 7th-safest city, and also rejected the argument from some councillors who insisted the “exorbitant” clean-up costs needed to be covered.
“It automatically excludes people,” he said.
“This is the only time of the year that Sydneysiders really come out of all of the corners of the city and come together — it’s the only time when you can sit next to people from all different walks of life and have a chat.”
Police Minister Troy Grant said the main reason for ticketing was crowd management.
“My personal opinion is we’d all like to do everything for free in life but things to look after the community do ultimately come at a cost,” he said.
“Nothing in life is for free.”
*Mick did not want his real name used. He may or may not have been expected to work today.