26 Apr 2019

Thousands fewer attended Auckland Anzac Day services this year

5:55 am on 26 April 2019

The Auckland RSA says attendance at this year's Anzac Day services was down by the thousands.

Auckland Dawn Service

Auckland Dawn Service Photo: RNZ / Nick Munro

President Graham Gibson says yesterday was an unusual Anzac Day, as fewer people turned up to both the dawn and civic services yesterday morning than usual - despite Prince William being at the later event.

Some RSAs in Auckland had to cancel outdoor marches and services and hold commemorations indoors in line with police advice following the Christchurch mosque attacks - and they also said their numbers were low.

There were about 16,000 people gathered at Auckland War Memorial as dawn broke yesterday, Mr Graham said.

Usually there were about 22,000.

He believed the lower numbers were due to different things, like the shootings in Christchurch last month, and people being away on holiday, taking advantage of Anzac Day's closeness to the late Easter break.

He said because of the holidays aligning this year, Poppy Day was held earlier than usual, on April 12, which could have been another factor.

"It's funny this year ... normally the public are out and we get wonderful support, and we still did get good support, but there's just a funny sort of feel out there this year."

Even a royal presence at the later civic service wasn't enough to pull in the usual crowd.

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Prince William laid a wreath at the Auckland Anzac service during a service at the Cenotaph at Auckland Domain. Photo: RNZ / Tim Collins

"The civic service was probably a couple of thousand down also and obviously we had Prince William there.

"It was very, very unusual. I haven't experienced this for a number of years."

The RSA's national president BJ Clark was in Wellington and said the dawn service at Pukeahu National War Memorial Park was "just packed".

"The public area of Pukeahu was just a sea of faces. The 11 o'clock service again I thought there was a large number there."

There were also 300 to 400 people at a separate service on the city's coast, at the Ataturk Memorial Park.

Mr Clark said people in Auckland were quite upset by the merging or cancellation of services.

But when local RSAs came to the national body for advice, it asked police for advice and passed it on, then asked local RSAs to speak to police themselves.

"At the end of the day it was over to the local associations, if they decided they wanted to go ahead, that was fine."

Last year there were 84 Anzac events across Auckland - this year there were just 26, so police could protect each one.

New Lynn RSA members were angry to hear their RSA's usual march and service would be cancelled, New Lynn RSA manager Dale Mays said.

She had been told the club should take a stand, as the Anzacs had.

"But we couldn't take the risk of something happening to someone, we had to take the advice of police."

Ms Mays said Thursday's event was held indoors, with a brief wreath-laying indoors, and a live band and afternoon tea.

Usually about 800 to 1000 people came to commemorations - but this year only about 180 did.

Ms Mays says she wasn't sure if people went to other events held in different parts of the city.

Nearby in Avondale the parade was also cancelled, with a mini-service held inside the clubrooms.

Manager Bernie Thomson said 100 to 200 fewer people showed up to pay their respects than usual.

But those who did make it, enjoyed it.

"They were really pleased, because what we did was decorate the whole place, we put up flags in the middle of our clubroom ... and did the service like that, so they all enjoyed it."

There was a wreath laying service inside the club rooms, and later the wreaths were taken to the memorial park where the ceremony was usually held.

The police said services went well and there were no major incidents.

One person was arrested at Auckland Domain yesterday morning for disorderly behaviour.

They said police staff were at over 180 Anzac Day services across the country.

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