Media releases

Paper art to reshape Sydney Harbour this NYE

Published 19 December 2016

A colourful paper artwork transforming Sydney Harbour into native animals, plants and Australiana has been revealed as the inspiration for the 2016 New Year’s Eve theme.

Commissioned by the City of Sydney, the handmade 3D model inspired the lighting effects, fireworks colours and projections that will be enjoyed by millions around the world with the theme ‘welcome to SydNYE’.

Surry Hills artist and paper engineer Benja Harney created the intricate paper work currently featuring on banners throughout the city and on public transport promoting 2016 Sydney New Year’s Eve.

Making the artwork was a painstaking process that took more than 600 hours, with every sheet of paper hand cut and delicately assembled.

Mr Harney says the project has been an intense labour of love to create an ode to the city he proudly calls home.

“This artwork captures the brightness and exuberance of the New Year’s Eve fireworks,” Mr Harney said.

“It’s a fantasy Sydney, with a waratah for the opera house, a gumnut for Sydney Tower and piano keys, an ice cream cone and even a thong representing the skyscraper landscape.

“But after much debate, the bridge stayed as the bridge, so people from anywhere in the world will immediately identify it as Sydney Harbour. I also used a lot of bright, sparkly paper to reflect the magic of exploding fireworks across the harbour.”

City of Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the unique artwork would become part of the City’s art collection.

“This artwork really captures the spirit of New Year’s Eve – a wonderful and colourful moment of fun when you can reflect on the year that’s been and get ready to celebrate the changes ahead,” the Lord Mayor said.

“This timeless work will become part of the City’s permanent art collection so people can enjoy the New Year’s Eve experience when they visit at any time of year.”

There are more than 75 individual pieces within the artwork depicting 20 different native species from land and sea. It took 80 scalpel blades to cut the thousands of pieces of paper in 40 different stocks.

“I wanted to depict a fun and joyous Sydney that represented happiness. I wanted to create something that is to look at and has many layers, so the more you look at it, the more you see,” Mr Harney said.

“It’s a journey for your eyes and I wanted to draw people in to make them feel part of this special night, wherever they are.”

The model was filmed and digitally enhanced by the team at Imagination, the Sydney creative agency that for six years has helped bring Sydney’s New Year’s Eve celebrations to life with elaborate light shows and giant projections on to the Harbour Bridge pylons.

You can see video showing the making of the Benja Harney Welcome to SydNYE artwork:

Heath Campanaro, Creative Director of Imagination Australia, said the artwork had helped elevate this year’s creative to a new level.

“This exuberant and playful artistic model captures the welcoming spirit that Australia’s premier New Year’s Eve celebration represents around the world,” Mr Campanaro said.

“Having a 3D model to work with for the first time has inspired the creative team across all our work on 2016 Sydney New Year’s Eve. From the event theming to the light display on the Sydney Harbour Bridge, we’ve translated the vibrancy of Benja’s work across everything we’ve touched.”

Mr Harney is also excited at being able to showcase Sydney to the world.

“As a Sydneysider, it’s a great honour to represent my city in this way. As an artist, this is the highlight of my career."

Audiences can watch the live stream of the Welcome to Country, the 9pm fireworks and the midnight fireworks on, the one-stop shop for planning your night on the harbour, at home or across the globe.



For media inquiries or images, contact City of Sydney Senior Media Adviser Belinda Wallis 0467 810 160 or email


For interviews with Lord Mayor Clover Moore, contact Paul Mackay on 0432 182 647 or email