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However, the core elements of Anzac Day remained constant: remembrance of service, honouring of sacrifice, and commitment to the legacy of New Zealanders who served in overseas wars.
Several thousand gathered at the Cenotaph for Dawn Parade, a service opened with a ringing gun salute to mark the moment Australian and New Zealand troops landed on the Gallipoli peninsula on April 25, 1915.
The Dunedin Anzac address was given by Air Force Group Captain Carl Nixon, who reflected both on New Zealanders who died in overseas wars, and on the New Zealanders who had died in the Christchurch mosque attack.
He said a theme of the earliest Anzac Day services had been of people striving to make the world a better place and to see the good in others.
"That is especially relevant today as we think about the terror attack in Christchurch," Gp Capt Nixon said.
"As a nation we are still grieving for those who were lost, for the suffering of families and also for the knowledge that this kind of crime could happen in our world.
"But we have also seen the resolve for a strengthened and inclusive community where such hate cannot exist."
The best way New Zealand could honour both the spirit of Anzac Day and those affected by the Christchurch attacks was for people to respect and care for each other, he said.
"We need to uphold the values and beliefs that New Zealanders hold dear."
Dunedin RSA president Lox Kellas said the timing of Anzac Day so close to Easter meant numbers at the city's memorial service were slightly down on last year, but he was still heartened that thousands had taken time to remember those who had served.
"All in all, it was great, and it was especially good to see all the younger people, there were a lot of students here today, which was marvellous."
The added police presence had little impact on the way the day had unfolded, Maj Kellas said.
"It was just business as usual, from my point of view," he said.
"It was a bit unfortunate it being so close to Easter, but I'm sure that meant attendances were up elsewhere around the country."
Armed police were also in Mosgiel for a well-attended service later in the morning, but did not attend several smaller memorial events around Dunedin.
The added security did not deter service-goers in Otago and Southland - strong turnouts were reported.
Some northern services were cancelled or combined with larger events, but New Zealanders still turned out in their droves to remember those who had served.