Happy New Year - 2016 has arrived

By Eli Orzessek, Jimmy Ellingham, Anna Leask

Happy New Year New Zealand, you're the first to see in 2016.

The countdowns are over, the fireworks exhausted but the party is sure to be ramping up across the nation.

Auckland's sky was lit up last night with half a tonne of fireworks, blasted from the Sky Tower to mark the New Year.

The five-minute, 360-degree display was beamed around the world, as hordes of people gathered below to see the spectacle.

Prior to the big countdown, a band entertained the crowd, performing Pharrell's hit song Happy, an apt song to match the mood of the inner city which was full of revellers, couples, families and flocks of kids on scooters all mixed up together.

In parts of the SkyCity complex, crowds were almost too thick to walk through and vendors on the sidelines hawked glowing headwear and light sabres.

There was plenty of traffic chaos and beeping horns as cars attempted to head into the city and enthusiastic punters spilled on to the road.

Cheers started spontaneously erupting as midnight drew closer, culminating in a boisterous countdown from 10 and the first bursts of fireworks.

As the fireworks shot into the air, they were nearly out-dazzled by the lights of hundreds of phones being held in the air to photograph them. Friends and families hugged and it looked like a fair few people got the famous New Year's kiss.

Celebrations were also in full swing across the rest of the country last night, with few incidents or issues reported.

Popular party spots including the Coromandel, Raglan and Gisborne where the annual Rhythm and Vines music festival was in full swing, emergency services reported a "smooth" and even "quiet" night.

One man was injured after he was thrown from his vehicle in a crash on the Northern Motorway, another four were taken to hospital after a two-car crash in Ahipara, Northland and a man was airlifted to hospital after a single-car crash near Feilding.

Other than a fire at Coopers Beach, reportedly started by someone setting off flares, the Fire Service was not overrun with call-outs.

Police, while not responding to significant chaos, did carry out hundreds of hotel and bar visits across the country, checking managers were complying with alcohol laws.

In the hours before the clock struck midnight revellers gathered to get ready for the start of 2016.

Newly honoured Richie McCaw ONZ was photographed with a beer in hand relaxing in the sun in a deckchair near a lake with girlfriend Gemma Flynn and three mates. New Year's Eve also marked the retired All Black captain's 35th birthday.

Holiday parks at popular beach spots were full to the brim as people settled in to their camp sites and cabins for the night.

In the Bay of Plenty, Mt Maunganui switched into New Year's Eve mode early, with main streets being closed mid-afternoon and police setting up a checkpoint along one of the main routes into the holiday hotspot.

Thousands of people packed Marine Parade and Main Beach, where a heavy turnout of police and security guards enforced a strict liquor ban.

Later in the night, hundreds of young people danced on the sand at the iHeartRadio Beach Stage.

While the Herald observed some visibly intoxicated revellers being assisted by police - including one unconscious young man slumped against a wall - a nearby treatment station manned by ambulance staff appeared mostly unused in the lead-up to the midnight countdown.

Shortly before midnight, a police spokeswoman said while officers had to deal with "pockets of short-lived disorder", there had been no significant incidents to mar the night.

Nearby in Tauranga hundreds of families headed to a spectacular harbourside fireworks display.

A flood of police on Gisborne streets appeared to quell any drunken New Year's Eve mayhem.

Police were eager to prevent a repeat of last year, when 63 people were arrested and 83 injured in rioting across two campgrounds associated with the Rhythm and Vines festival.

NZME reporter Gia Garrick, who is at the three-day music festival, said there are police officers everywhere.

"Everyone they've talked to has said they wouldn't even dare drink and drive, they wouldn't dare get on the roads.

"There have been police stops everywhere we look in Gisborne central as well."

More than 1000 people showed up to welcome in the New Year at the Glo Party at the Village Green in Rotorua.

Tonight's Rhythm and Vines crowd showed a marked improvement in behaviour compared to last year, police said.

There were only four arrests at the popular music festival - three for disorder and one for assault.

The arrest numbers were low considering the high levels of drunkenness of many people camping at the festival, police said.

Campsites adjoining the site were independent from the festival. As levels of intoxication rose throughout the day, dozens of people were turned away from the festival as a result.

Tairawhiti Area Commander Inspector Sam Aberahama said the festival site was licensed, which meant alcohol was being sold from bars and serves were monitored.

"There was a distinct difference in the levels of intoxication in the campsites and on the festival site.

"We have always opposed BYO at events and this has not changed our stance," Mr Aberahama said.

By 10pm Wellington's entertainment strip was getting busier with Courtenay Place and Cuba St humming after a slow start to the night.

On the waterfront, just after 9pm, with natural light still lingering over the city, a mini-fireworks display was held for the young ones not able to see in 2016.

The capital city put on a glorious summer's day to farewell 2015 in style and on a mild night, hundreds, maybe thousands, made their way to the seaside for fireworks at midnight.

WHAT CELEBRITIES WERE UP TO

There really is no better way to spend this special day and see the new year in?? #happynewyear #paradise

A photo posted by Gemma Flynn (@gemflynn) on


Wishing everyone in the Southern Hemisphere an amazing New Year???

A video posted by Rachel Hunter (@rachelhunterx) on


rock up to ya bbq with a star wars promo cup

A photo posted by Rose Matafeo (@rosematafeo) on


About to get this New Years Party started!Happy New Years Eve!! ????????????????????

A photo posted by Teuila Blakely (@teuilablakely) on


Calm before the storm.. #RNV #scribewashere #memyselfandi

A photo posted by Not Many If Any (@scribe_was_here) on



Cruising in to 2016 in style ?? #puppyinabasket #newzealandsummer

A photo posted by Kimberley Crossman (@kimcrossman) on


- NZ Herald

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