Wollongong's Australia Day light show, in place instead of fireworks this year, has been panned by spectators who thought the show was underwhelming and and hard to see from afar.
Wollongong City Council has admitted the light show did not deliver as planned and said this would be reviewed when planning next year's event.
Residents told the council's Facebook page the laser light show did not hit the mark.
Emma Douglas doubted council's advice that "the best vantage points will be from further away not from nearby parks, but further along the coastline, escarpment, lake or from your own homes".
She posted a photo showing a dim distant glow.
"Took your (horrible) advice initially, this was our view from Bellambi Beach ... I hope you didn't waste too much money on this sorry excuse for a laser/light show! So disappointed that I kept my 5-year-old up to see, well.... not much really."
"Not visible at a distance from the car," William Searle wrote. "What a disappointment and waste of money. Bring back the fireworks."
A council spokeswoman said the display did not deliver as planned.
"In council's brief to its contractor, it stated lights were to be best viewed from a distance, and unfortunately the display in the harbour did not entirely meet this requirement," she said.
"The flag flyover, HARS aerial show, lights at Kully Bay and Nicholson Park and laser and radio accompaniment at Belmore Basin was delivered for $70,000.
"The Australia Day Committee will undertake a debrief of this year's activations before starting the planning process feedback for Australia Day 2022."
The spokeswoman said the light show was chosen over fireworks because it could be better viewed over an hour, rather than the 9-12 minutes of fireworks, so it would produce less packed crowds.
Some people thought the show was good enough and a fine response to difficult times.
"Great to see some new initiative being tried," Alex Gerhardt-Bourke said. "Fireworks have so many environmental issues along with being pretty expensive just for some flashy lights."
Wollongong City Council had advised people the lights would not be great up close. But people reported not being able to see anything worthwhile from Port Kembla, Towradgi and East Corrimal.
The helicopter fly-past, organised with the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society and towing an enormous Australian flag, was a popular hit, with beachgoers standing and smiling as they watched it go past.