Hundreds gathered among the steam at Ohinemutu's Muruika War Cemetery for Rotorua's Anzac Day dawn service.

The City of Rotorua Highland Pipe Band had the commemorations in darkness as Reverend Tom Poata, Kaumatua Monty Morrison and Father Eamon Kennedy arrived from within St Faith's Church.

Veterans, service people, representatives of Rotorua police and the Rotorua fire brigade turned in salute to the east as the first glimpse of the sun rose from behind the hills.

Rotorua's Anzac Day dawn service and parade at Muruika war cemetery at Ohinemutu. Photo/Ben Fraser
Rotorua's Anzac Day dawn service and parade at Muruika war cemetery at Ohinemutu. Photo/Ben Fraser

Rev Poata led an opening prayer in both te reo Maori and English.

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"We are here before you as those that have benefited from the great sacrifice of men.

"Who gave as much as their lives in the pursuit of victory and that elusive goal, peace."

In the Anzac dedication Major Pita Anaru said to remember those who gave their lives and those who had since returned but passed on to immortality.

"Lest we forget the sacrifices made.

"They did not want to die yet the supreme sacrifice was made for many, and it was made for you and for me."

He said it was now the responsibility of the community to rebuild from the ashes of the devastation they left behind.

Voices sang out in unison across Ohinemutu as the first hymn, Aue Ihu, was sung in te reo Maori, led by the Rotorua Combined Schools Choir.

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Australian soldier Warrant Officer Class 2 Bradley Foster was the guest speaker.

Rangiurei Coffin, 2, at Rotorua's Anzac Day dawn service and parade at Muruika war cemetery at Ohinemutu. Photo/Ben Fraser
Rangiurei Coffin, 2, at Rotorua's Anzac Day dawn service and parade at Muruika war cemetery at Ohinemutu. Photo/Ben Fraser

The Last Post was performed by bugler Ken Douglas as the flags were lowered, shrouded in steam and with the dawn turning the sky orange behind them.

Tears were wiped from eyes as The Ode was read by Henry Macown first, in te reo Maori and then again by Bryce Morrison, in English.

The Rouse Reveille played as the flags were raised back to the tops of their poles, New Zealand and Australia flying side by side.

The first wreath was laid by Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick and Kaumatua Monty Morrison together as a lone piper played.

The service ended with the Australian and New Zealand national anthems and the reading of benediction by Father Kennedy.

Rotorua's Anzac Day dawn service and parade at Muruika war cemetery at Ohinemutu. Photo/Ben Fraser
Rotorua's Anzac Day dawn service and parade at Muruika war cemetery at Ohinemutu. Photo/Ben Fraser

Local Merehira Savage had been up since 5am to honour her ancestors.

"We've got ancestors who were in World War I and II, one of them passed away at Gallipoli, 103 years ago.

"My father was also in the Vietnam war."

Savage said it had been instilled in her from an early age that, "it's only one morning of the year you have to get up early".

"We pay our respects for those that fought for what was right."

"Now we're wanting to educate our own children and mokopuna to attend also, this is the first time our grandchild has participated."

For former soldiers Uria Jenkins and Delia McKinnon the commemoration was "just what they do".

"I thought it was really great they made the invitation for a serving soldier to come and speak," Jenkins said.

"It had a different feel to it this year, a lot more inviting and relaxing."

Jenkins said it was good having a few laughs in there, "otherwise it can become quite formal and people don't know how they fit".

McKinnon said today's service was "marvellous".

"The guest speaker was very respectful.

"When you move in the world of te reo Maori it can be frightening, he followed our protocols and apologised for the things he couldn't do."