Chinese New Year celebrations kick off in style on Sydney Harbour.

The iconic Sydney Opera House has turned red to celebrate the start of the Chinese New Year. NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell flanked by the Consul General of the People's Republic of China H.E. Duan Jielong rang in the Year of the Snake by sounding a gong on Sydney Harbour.

The change in colour is officially to recognise the contribution of Chinese Australians to the state. Mr O'Farrell, dressed in a traditional Chinese satin shirt, pointed out that NSW has the largest population of Chinese Australians.

"This is a great opportunity to celebrate China's contribution to our economy," O’Farrell told a crowd of reporters and well-wishers. "More importantly, the significant contribution that Chinese Australian citizens have made to the development of this state and this city for more than 200 years." He went on to emphasise his pride in Sydney’s cultural diversity and his determination to forge even closer ties with China.

Mr Duan added his congratulations: “The Sydney Opera is a world renowned architectural masterpiece and symbol of Australia in the eyes of many Chinese people,” he said, "therefore I'm sure this beautiful message of friendship will be well received and cherished by Chinese people around the world."

In an anticipated boost for the economy, estimates suggest that 80,000 Chinese tourists are spending the New Year in Australia with Sydney the most popular destination. They should be well rewarded with a plethora of free markets, exhibitions, entertainment and cultural activities planned for the next few weeks.

Despite the rain, plenty of tourists and Sydney residents went down to the harbour to take pictures of the red Opera House while Mr O’Farrell was one of the first to post his own photo on Twitter.

Gong Hey Fat Choy!