Chch attacks hang heavily over Anzac dawn services

The Auckland Dawn Service. Photo: RNZ
The Auckland Dawn Service. Photo: RNZ
Thousands of New Zealanders have turned out nationwide for Anzac Day dawn services, with the weight of the Christchurch mosque attacks hanging heavily over the commemorations.

There was a noticeably heavier police presence at the services.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told the crowd at the Auckland War Memorial Museum that Kiwis needed to recommit to the principles of freedom, democracy and peace that the country had fought for.

She said the sacrifice of past wars reminded us of "our shared humanity - something we have been reminded of again in the wake of the 15th of March."

"Let us recommit to always remembering our shared humanity.

"We will always be a proud nation, one that understands the role that we have to play in your international community.

"Our sense of independence is as strong as our sense of responsibility to each other, not just as nation states but as human beings," she said.

Thousands gathered in central Christchurch for an especially poignant dawn service just five weeks after New Zealand’s worst ever terror attack in the city.

Security around Cranmer Square near Hagley Park was tight with more than 30 armed police and roads blocked off.

The official contingent is gathering outside Christchurch, led by the NZ Army Band, youth groups, emergency services, before veterans and serving personnel.

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel said the “recent atrocity perpetrated on our city” has  given everyone cause to pause and reflect.

Anzac Day is a day when New Zealanders come together and reflect on the sacrifice of the men and women who served in the First World War and the incredible loss more than a century ago.

Dalziel said it was extraordinary that Turkey today lets Kiwis and Australia visit the old Anzac battleground every year which is now a memorial to peace.

Three flags hang limp in the calm morning air by the cenotaph: New Zealand, Australia and Turkey.

Pete Dawson of Christchurch RSA reminded people that they would need to be aware of the heightened security today and in the event of a threat or emergency event to follow the police lead and to remain calm and listen to any evacuation instructions.

Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, is expected to attend the civic service at Auckland's war museum in the Domain at 11am before travelling to Christchurch to meet survivors of the mosque terror attacks.

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