A fireworks display planned for Tauranga was cancelled because of the effect of noise and bright lights on birds rescued from the Rena oil spill.
However, in the main centres, spectacular displays took place in front of large crowds.
Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby says it was a tough decision to cancel the fireworks because much local economic benefit rested on it going ahead.
He says there is already a misconception that the area is closed due to the Rena disaster.
Mr Crosby says he is working with promoters to organise a separate display in future.
A compromise had been sought such as reducing the noise levels of the fireworks and even relocating the birds. However, neither of these options proved to be viable.
Big displays in main centres
In Wellington, $150,000 worth of fireworks were set off from a barge moored at the waterfront at 9pm.
At least 100,000 people were expected to watch the 15-minute spectacular.
Wellington City Council said about 10 protesters from the Occupy Wellington group were still occupying a favourite spot for fireworks viewing, and had been warned they may have to move.
In Auckland, fireworks were held at Westfield, Albany. In Christchurch, a fireworks display was held at New Brighton Pier.