Nelson proved to be the nation's black spot when it came to the nation's New Year celebrations last night.

While revellers nationwide largely behaved themselves, Nelson police were struggling to cope with a number of serious offences, including three reported rapes and an alleged stabbing.

Senior Sergeant Stu Koefoed said 59 people were arrested. Among the more serious charges were an attempted murder, an indecent assault, three counts of male assaults female and two of assault.

Police were "somewhat stretched" investigating the three reported rapes and a stabbing, he said.

"I am also expecting further reported offences to be made this morning when partygoers awake."

Mr Koefoed said that despite the large number of offences dealt with by police, he was generally pleased with the behaviour of the 3000-4000 young people partying at the various campgrounds in the region.

Officers also had their work cut out for them on the Coromandel Peninsula, where they were kept busy throughout the night with disorder and liquor ban offences, and a number of assaults and fights.

About 155 people were arrested at Whangamata and 38 at Whitianga.

Eastern Waikato area commander Inspector Glenn Dunbier said police were concerned at the level of drunkenness of those arrested, and some of the behaviour they witnessed.

There was a spree of wilful damage committed along the main street of Whitianga, and police in all peninsula townships reported a number of "very drunk and aggressive" people.

However, Mr Dunbier said the total number of arrests was a small percentage of the number of people holidaying in the area and showed that the overwhelming majority stayed safe and out of trouble.

Bay of Plenty district operations manager Inspector Scott Fraser said well-organised public events, effective liquor bans and extra police combined to ensure that New Years Eve passed relatively peacefully in the popular holiday region.

There were more than 200 police across the Western Bay of Plenty area, along with 150 volunteers and 65 council staff who were based at Mt Maunganui.

"It is estimated that there may have been up to 30,000 people at the main Mt Maunganui event. The behaviour at the event was at the standard we would expect and extremely well-behaved, with the majority of people enjoying themselves and seeing in the New Year safely," Mr Fraser said.

The situation was similar in Rotorua, Taupo and Whakatane.

Elsewhere in the country, the number of arrests was down. In some places they were reported to be fewer than a normal Saturday night.

Wanaka, hit by alcohol-fuelled disturbances in recent years, was extraordinarily quiet with just four arrests for minor offences.

`It's been a fantastic night," said Senior Sergeant Allan Grindell.

Work done in recent years in partnership with the council, bar owners and campground operators had all contributed to the success of the night, he said.

In Queenstown, there were 19 arrests, well down on the 30 last New Year's Eve.

Police brought in extra staff from Dunedin and Invercargill but reported a good-natured crowd gathered at the lakefront.

In Gisborne, where thousands of holidaymakers have gathered for the annual Rhythm and Vines music festival, police reported little trouble.

In Northland however, they were busy, with dozens of arrests made in the Bay of Islands resort of Paihia, many for breaching the liquor ban or disorder.

In Whangarei, 14 people were arrested overnight.

While Napier police did not have to attend any major incidents, they made 33 arrests, mostly for breaches of local liquor bans and drunken behaviour.

Wellington Inspector Simon Perry said crowds had been well-behaved at events in Civic Square.

There were 55 arrests later in the night, generally for disorderly behaviour and drunkenness.

In Auckland, thousands of people witnessed a fireworks display above the Sky Tower but police there said extra staff brought in to watch over revellers in the central city kept arrests to a minimum.

West of the city, at Piha Beach, three fire appliances and a helicopter spent the night dousing a scrub fire set off by midnight fireworks.

A good-natured crowd of up to 15,000 people gathered to welcome the New Year in Christchurch's Cathedral Square, also with little trouble.

Canterbury Central area commander Inspector Derek Erasmus said away from the Square there were "the expected" fights, family violence incidents and assaults, with alcohol playing a significant role in most of them.

There were 138 arrests in the city overnight, 53 for liquor ban breaches.

Rain dampened celebrations in Dunedin, where about 20 people were arrested on disorder charges.