From today, specialist NSW Police officers will be armed with high-powered rifles, while stainless-steel bollards and concrete spheres are being installed throughout Martin Place in an effort to strengthen security around the Sydney CBD.

Forty seven officers from the Public Order and Riot Squad (PORS) have been issued with Colt M4 semi-automatic rifles, with plans to train all PORS officers to use the military-assault weapons by next June. “I don’t want the public to feel confronted, but I want them not only be safe, but to also feel safe,” NSW Police commissioner Mick Fuller said in a statement.

“This is an additional capability that will provide greater support for officers responding to high-risk incidents and ensure increased community safety.”

Fuller described the training program as “rigorous” and said the public could expect to see officers with the weapons only “on occasion” during “high-risk” periods.

Generally, they will be stowed in squad cars, although close at hand.

Deputy commissioner Dave Hudson said the rollout was part of NSW Police’s plan to “strengthen its response to terrorist violence”.

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NSW police minister Troy Grant welcomed the first stage of the plan in time to protect Christmas and New Year’s Eve crowds from the potential threat of terrorism.

“The unfortunate reality of terror attacks around the world means there is a growing acceptance within the community that we need heavily-armed police to be able to be deployed when and where they are needed,” he said in statement.

Construction also began today to replace temporary barricades in Martin Place with stainless-steel bollards and concrete spheres.

In a statement, the City of Sydney said the upgrade was “part of its ongoing work to review and strengthen security in public spaces”, not a response to any specific threat.

At this stage, there is no plan to install additional bollards elsewhere in Sydney.

The work is expected to take between six to eight weeks but will pause over the Christmas and New Year period.

The terrorism threat level has remained unchanged at "probable" in Australia since September 2014.

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