Countdown on for New Year's Eve

Thousands of revellers are preparing to see in the New Year in Otago at parties planned throughout the region.

Police will again maintain a large visible presence and enforce widespread liquor bans. Rhythm and Alps in the Cardrona Valley will be one of the largest events.

The two-day music festival on a farm near Wanaka will cater for up to 9500 people, including 5000 campers.

All tickets and camping spaces have been sold.

Rhythm Group chief executive Kieran Spillane said the festival's move to the Cardrona Valley and timing over New Year's Eve were popular changes.

''It is clear a festival like this is just what the South Island needed,'' he said.

Thousands of people are expected to gather at the free council-organised events in Dunedin, Queenstown and Wanaka.

It is estimated the Wakatipu area's population doubles to about 90,000 during the peak holiday period, and at least 10,000 are expected in Dunedin's Octagon for the annual New Year's Eve party.

Inspector Mel Aitken, area prevention manager for Dunedin, Clutha and Waitaki, said officers in Dunedin would focus on the city council's New Year's Eve party in the Octagon, but it was a ''family affair'' and she did not expect any major issues.

Additional staff were stationed in holiday destinations including Wanaka, Queenstown and Otematata, for up to two weeks over the Christmas break, she said.

New powers for police resulted from the recently implemented Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act, which allowed on-the-spot fines for liquor ban breaches and other alcohol-related offences.

Insp Aitken said she hoped people would drink responsibly and behave over New Year, to ensure it was a safe and enjoyable time for everyone.

Most public New Year's Eve events are alcohol-free and held within wider alcohol ban areas implemented in towns for the holidays.

Live entertainment is planned to start at 8pm in the Octagon and at the Queenstown and Wanaka events.

In the Octagon, the Robbie Burns cannon in the Octagon will be fired once at midnight, followed by a fireworks display from the Civic Centre roof.

Revellers gathered in Queenstown's Earnslaw Park and Memorial Gates will see fireworks set off from a barge in Lake Wakatipu, with a foreshore display for those gathered on Lake Wanaka's waterfront.

For the first time in more than a decade, no public New Year's Eve parties are being held in Central Otago, after Promote Dunstan called it quits on the Clyde street party.

The event has been held for more than 10 years, but cost about $12,000 and always made a loss.

Instead, Central Otago hotels will feature live music and many camping grounds will host get-togethers for those on site.

In the Waitaki Valley, no public events are planned, and liquor bans are in place in Otematata and Omarama.

Fine weather is forecast in Queenstown and Wanaka on New Year's Eve, although some rain is expected throughout most of the rest of Otago, including showers in Dunedin, Alexandra and Oamaru.



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