In Anzac Day message Jacinda Ardern says New Zealand faces 'new threat' of Covid-19

The Prime Minister says this year's Anzac Day is an opportunity to reflect on the way war has shaped New Zealand, as "a new threat faces all nations as the impact of the coronavirus deepens worldwide". 

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In a video message the PM acknowledged Anzac Day 2020 is being commemorated in a way never done before. Source: Supplied

In her address, Ms Ardern said that this year New Zealand had to find new ways to commemorate together "but our purpose remains the same".

"Today, we honour the Anzac commitment and will reflect on our enduring hope for peace in a world that does not ask for the sacrifice of war, but instead asks for a commitment to empathy, kindness and to our shared humanity."

"Through Anzac Day we are all connected," Jacinda Ardern said in her written message. 

"It is a day to reflect on the many ways in which war has shaped our communities, and the myriad different perspectives and experiences among us.

"This year a new threat faces all nations as the impact of the coronavirus deepens worldwide. As we face these significant challenges, we remember the courage of those who have served in the name of peace and justice."

Ms Ardern said the day was an opportunity "to look after each other in difficult times, to make Aotearoa a place that stands up at home and in the international community for the values of inclusiveness, kindness and compassion".

"Anzac Day is a time to reflect on the contribution made by each and every New Zealander who has served in war and conflict. Over the decades it has become a time also to reflect on who we are as a nation, and the values that we stand for."

The 2020 Anzac Day would be a stark contrast to 2019, where thousands packed memorial services around the country including Prince William, who was among 10,000 people who attended the Auckland service.

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Services last year were reduced due to security concerns after the March 15 Christchurch terrorist attack, which saw leaders draw comparisons in the response. 

"Anzac Day reminds us of our shared humanity, something we've been reminded of again in the wake of the 15th of March," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said at the time

"We will always be a proud nation, one that understands the role we have to play in the international community, one that does not take our sense of security for granted or believes our isolation insulates us from conflict or war."

Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy said it was a day to remember "we are strongest when we work together for a common purpose, particularly during the most trying of times".

"In 1918, boy scouts delivered food during the flu pandemic," she said.

"Today, many volunteers are helping the vulnerable, and New Zealanders owe a debt of gratitude to them and to everyone working in our essential services, including those working across the health sector, our police and emergency responders, broadcasters and media personnel, and the many people involved in the production and distribution of food."

"As we unite in remembrance of the many challenges that have buffeted and shaped us as a nation, we stand as one in the face of enormous challenge, knowing that in doing so, we can and will prevail."

History researcher George Davis said Anzac Day had experienced dips and resurgences in attendance since the country began commemorations, but anticipated the lack of services due to Covid-19 would not have an impact on years to come.

He called the most recent increase in numbers since the Centenary “just astounding”, as well as huge increase in visitor numbers by New Zealanders to pay respect at Gallipoli.

“The notion of quiet commemoration has undergone a certain amount of strain,” he said. “New Zealanders began to take Anzac to heart.”

“Our physical landscape was changing, the emotion landscape was strengthening and now we have in the past few years increased, particularly families, in attending dawn service.”

When asked if he thought the lack of services this year due to the Covid-19 crisis would impact attendance in 2021, Dr Davis said he did not.

“If the Covid crisis passes over I think our numbers will be back up to what there was before, the day hasn’t lost its traction, people will look back on this day as being quite unusual.”

He suspected there could be a resurgence in numbers attending next year, with the downside being many New Zealanders being unable to visit Gallipoli due to border restrictions.

Dr Davis said people would remember this Anzac Day as the time the country could not do “what it was used to doing, but it doesn’t mean we won’t remember those who have died”.

“A number of the military images will still be put out there, with orientation towards standing staunch against an invisible invader.”