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NSW: NSW gears up for Australia Day

23 Jan 2009 11:47 AM

SYDNEY, Jan 23 AAP - Australia Day 2009 is set to be a big one in NSW as people celebrate their national day, the Chinese New Year and kids get ready to go back to school.

And the weather looks like it will obliging, with the Bureau Of Meteorology predicting a welcome relief from the recent heatwave on Monday.

The bureau has tipped a top of 27 degrees for Sydney, and 33 degrees for the west, but there is a chance of showers and thunderstorms to dampen celebrations.

However, the chance of rain won't stop the barbecues from firing up across the state, especially at Sydney's Hyde Park for the annual Great Australian Barbecue.

The park will be a hub of activity on Monday, as it plays host to a performance by the Royal Australian Navy Band and a citizenship ceremony led by Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore.

Later in the evening, Darling Harbour will celebrate the event - which this year coincides with the precinct's 21st anniversary - with a spectacular fireworks, sound and light display.

In regional NSW, citizen ceremonies and public BBQs are planned in almost every local shire council.

The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) will be on site at most citizenship ceremonies, encouraging new citizens to enrol to vote.

Last year, 2,496 Australians enrolled to vote at citizenship ceremonies in NSW, and the AEC is keen to remind people that becoming a citizen does not automatically enrol them to vote.

People in Wagga Wagga will be able to celebrate Chinese New Year and Australia with a free breakfast, featuring Aussie barbecue and Chinese food.

In the Blue Mountains, there will be a celebration for locals less than a foot tall and made of plaster at the Australian Gnome Convention on Monday.

For those keen to bushwalk in the milder weather, national parks across NSW will waive their entry fees on January 26.

On Sydney Harbour, special exclusion zones will apply across the long weekend as part of the festivities.

More than 2,500 vessels are expected to take to the harbour this weekend, which will stage a number of events including Monday's ferrython and tall ships race.

Extra police will be on the roads until midnight on Monday as part of Operation Safe Return, with double demerits in place for many.

With high traffic expected over the long weekend, which also marks the end of the school holidays, motorists are urged to slow down and take extra care on the roads.