Up to 20,000 people crammed into the Octagon for the midnight fireworks display, which saw $10,000 worth of colourful explosives launched from the Civic Centre roof over about five minutes.
However, Dunedin city councillor Neil Collins - who watched from the nearby Radio Otago House - yesterday labelled the show a ''pathetic'' and ''embarrassing'' fizzer.
''It was like someone had decided to go down to the $3 Shop and brought a party pack [of fireworks].
''It was pathetic. God, it was embarrassing.''
He insisted the city needed to lift its game and said he would push for a bigger budget at this month's annual plan hearing.
''We used to have a good display here, but the last few years they have just dwindled.''
Dunedin City Council events team leader Marilyn Anderson said $70,000 from the council's events fund was allocated to this year's New Year's Eve festivities, as well as $8500 of external funding.
That covered the $10,000 fireworks display by staff from Christchurch-based firm Fireworks International, which did ''a stunning job'', and all other event costs, from entertainers to public toilets and security, she said.
The budget had remained unchanged for the past three years, but was presented to councillors for approval each year, she said.
''It's a very, very tight budget and it's worked very, very carefully,'' she said.
Despite that, the only feedback had been positive. Many revellers arrived in the Octagon late in the evening, specifically to see the fireworks, she said.
''We have had no complaints about the quality of the fireworks show,'' she said.
Council community development and events manager Rebecca Williams said a better display would require a bigger budget, ''but that's a choice councillors make''.