City of Newcastle has cancelled its annual New Year's Eve fireworks display and harbour celebrations over coronavirus safety fears.
Lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes and Detective Superintendent Wayne Humphrey announced the cancellation on Friday morning, saying the prospect of 30,000 people gathering on the foreshore would almost certainly breach public health orders issued by the NSW government.
Cr Nelmes said it would be "exceptionally difficult" to transport thousands of people on buses and trams into the city while maintaining social distancing.
"Those numbers are just too difficult to maintain public health orders that are likely to be in place," she said.
"We are in a global pandemic, and these decisions are not made lightly."
But Cr Nelmes encouraged revellers to frequent inner-city cafes, pubs and restaurants to celebrate the end of a year to forget.
"A lot of venues are operating very well in our city, a lot of restaurants, hospitality areas, small bars, that also need your support.
"The transport network will be able, in a covid-safe way, to accommodate all of the patrons that are wanting to attend the local businesses and restaurants to celebrate New Year's Eve with their family and friends.
"I imagine people will be saying, 'Thank god 2020 is over. Let's hope 2021 is a better year than 2020.'"
Newcastle council routinely spends about $200,000 on New Year's Eve celebrations.
Superintendent Humphrey said police would enforce social-distancing rules on New Year's Eve.
"We're not going to change our operational footprint very much at all. We'll be policing heavy in terms of numbers," he said.
"We're obviously anticipating public-place gatherings, beach gatherings, house parties, moving from house to house.
"We're mindful that all of those events are going to need policing, and I just ask the public, I know it's New Year's Eve, and I know you want to be with your friends, but the health order is in place for a specific reason to keep everybody safe.
"An influx of tourists, there has to be a rise in risk about an outbreak.
"If we stick to the health order as best we can, whatever that may look like on the 31st of December, that's probably best for everyone."
He said the Newcastle community had been complying well with health orders in recent months.
City of Sydney has foreshadowed that its harbour fireworks and activities could be cancelled.
"It may not be responsible to encourage large crowds to our foreshore this year," its website says.
"We're currently working with the NSW Government to determine the future of the event for 2020."
This year's Anzac Day celebrations in Newcastle in April were also canned.
IN THE NEWS