Door procedures were tightened at the Auckland City Mission Christmas dinner yesterday after a group of Chinese tourists ate there for free last year.
City Missioner Diane Robertson said volunteers were taking extra time to check tickets to prevent a repeat of last year's incident in which unwitting tourists were taken to the lunch by a rogue tour operator.
"There have been no issues this year. It's usually an event at which there are very few issues," Ms Robertson said.
An estimated 2,000 people were at the lunch at Wynyard Quarter's Viaduct Events Centre.
Melissa Murphy was among them and said the event was a chance for her to feel she belongs.
"So many of us are not privileged to be able to do this for our children or our families, and it's so nice to be able to spend it with other people who are in the same boat as you," she said.
Ms Murphy's daughters Kiara, 9, and Skylah, 11, were excited to be taking home some of their table's generous pile of lollies and chocolates to share with friends.
When she no longer needs to come, Ms Murphy says she'll be back as a volunteer.
Guests dined on roast chicken, ham, potatoes, beans and carrots, with icecream, fruit salad, jelly and Christmas cake for dessert. Everyone received a present from Santa.
About 3,000 gifts were donated to the mission on Christmas Eve by Motat, after visitors to the museum were asked to buy a present instead of paying admission during December.
Ms Robertson said those attending came from a range of backgrounds, including the homeless, people from the mission's detox centre, those who live in lodging and boarding houses, families and elderly people. Guests register in advance for tickets, but if space is available after all ticketholders are seated, others are welcome to join the meal.
The Christchurch City Mission served lunch for 700 yesterday.
In Wellington, the Room at the Inn community lunch was held at the Aro Valley Community Centre. The Wellington City Mission collected food and gifts to pack in hampers, which were delivered to families in need.
By the numbers
• 200kg of chicken
• 240kg of ham
• 500 volunteers
• 2,500 presents