The first Anzac Day dawn service in Queenstown for as long as anyone can remember has attracted an estimated 800 people, seemingly cementing the earlier fixture.
Traditionally Queenstown has held a later tribute after 9am to remember the sacrifices of war – but Queenstown Returned Services Association president Dave Geddes says he’s blown away by the attendance at the dawn service which started at 6.45am.
“We were expecting a couple of hundred,” Geddes says, estimating between 700 to 800 turned out.
“To get that number here is pretty heartening.”
The dawn service on the shore of Lake Wakatipu at Queenstown Bay involved both the Australian and New Zealand national anthems, plus a moving reading by Rhonda Parry of a Gallipoli veteran’s diary before local Trevor Tattersfield played The Last Post just as dawn was breaking.
Asked if he’ll repeat the dawn service next year, Geddes says: “It’ll be hard not to now.”
Dignitaries including Deputy Prime Minister and local MP Bill English, Australian Government representative Lucy Charlesworth and councillor Cath Gilmour all laid wreaths at the service.
The great turnout left Geddes wondering how many would turn up for the traditional parade through Queenstown later this morning – he needn’t have worried.
Hundreds again gathered to follow the parade – led by 93-year-old Queenstown war veteran Jock Boyd being driven in a jeep. It left the Memorial Gates at the Queenstown Bay waterfront at 9.15am and was followed by a Queenstown Memorial Centre service at 9.40am.
At the service Geddes acknowledged a large contingent of Australians.
“Together this is our day – one we share with pride and respect. Australia and New Zealand’s collective destinies were forged on the battlefields of the world. We’ve remained close not just geographically but as best of mates.”
Geddes also drew attention to the phrase “Service before self” which has pride of place above the downtown Memorial Gates.
“It epitomises the selfless attitude of those who were prepared to give so much so we can enjoy the freedoms and lifestyles we do today.”