By PAUL YANDALL



They welcomed the new millennium in a year ago with the best party in the country, and they plan to do it all over again.



While most cities in New Zealand and around the world are keeping their celebrations low key, Gisborne - the first city in the world to celebrate last year's new millennium - is determined to party in the "real" new millennium tomorrow.



The city hosts the second annual Tuia 2001 festival, starting today, which will feature international music, carnival and performance acts.

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The three-day festival follows on from the successful one held during eights days of millennium celebrations last year, when 135,000 partygoers danced until dawn while most of the country floundered in the mist and rain.



Elsewhere, however, the real new millennium - generally recognised as beginning on January 1, 2001 - is barely getting a passing mention.



A spokeswoman for the Government's Millennium Office, Sharon van Gulik, said there was no official event to mark the occasion.



"Our programme was focused on the popular millennium celebrations last year. This is the technical new millennium but there are no national, international or world celebrations planned."



The office exists only to tie up financial ends and will close tomorrow.



In Auckland, where even line-dancers can find an all-night dance party, there is not even a fireworks display to welcome in the New Year.



Wellington will also forgo fireworks in another subdued celebration. In Hamilton, Tauranga, Rotorua and Whangarei, most locals will party the New Year in with fireworks displays and concerts.



But as one district council spokesman remarked: "Everyone just wants to go to the beach and relax this time."

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Around the world, celebrations seem equally subdued.



The Kingdom of Tonga, which claims its islands were among the first to see in the New Year, is not planning any special celebration to welcome the real new millennium.



And 24 hours later, Samoa, which last year marketed itself as "Your Last Millennium Experience," is not celebrating this time.



Between the two time zones, there is a lack of excitement over the event.



Only those great clockmakers, the Swiss, are reported to be marking the occasion, although the Swiss Embassy in Wellington could not confirm any official celebration.



Those with a professional interest in the real new millennium will be partying.

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Auckland Observatory director Ian Griffin said he would make sure he marked the occasion with a cheer and a glass of bubbly. "Astronomers have always maintained that the new millennium begins in 2001. Time is very, very important to us, although the actual calendar is not.



"The new millennium starts 2000 years after the first year, 1AD. That makes it January 1, 2001."



This time there will be no millennium bug to dampen celebrations. But the weather forecast for New Year's Eve in New Zealand seems familiar: Rain. Everywhere.