The sounds of the skate park nearby couldn't break through the silence as people gathered to show strength and unity tonight in the wake of grief.

Hundreds of people stood as one in Te Puke Jubilee Park in support of the families of victims in the Christchurch shootings, and in support of the local Muslim community.

Leading the vigil was Monique Lints who thanked those attending for their bravery in a time when it was easy to feel scared.

"We used to joke that we needed a safety plan for a terrorist attack at these types of events, but now it's real.


She believed this moment was an opportunity to educate ourselves, families and friends.

"We have changed forever but good things can come from this wake up call if we all work together."

Chalk covers the pavement with messages for the Muslim community in Christchurch. Photo / Leah Tebbutt
Chalk covers the pavement with messages for the Muslim community in Christchurch. Photo / Leah Tebbutt

Rotorua National MP Todd McClay said it was easy to be angry and to ask questions on how this could have been avoided.

"I woke yesterday hoping the news from the day before was a bad dream... but every city and every valley of New Zealand, people showed their grief and understanding compassion to a community in Christchurch that is just as important as every other community in New Zealand."

McClay said it was important that the shooter did not change New Zealand forever.

"Yesterday, New Zealand was too much like the rest of the world.

"Seeing everybody gathered here I am heartened to know that it feels much more like New Zealand."

While many politicians and community leaders shared words, people unified through song and by the simple gesture of a hug.


Students from Te Puke High School were also collecting donations for the fund to help the families of the Christchurch victims.

Isaac Gunson, head boy from 2017 and who is presently studying in Christchurch, phoned into the service and shared his experience.

While he said it was scary, it wasn't about him.

"This wasn't an attack on New Zealand, this wasn't even an attack on Christchurch. This was an attack on the Muslim community.

"But I am beyond humbled to be able to call Te Puke home, especially now that I can see the love that is there for this town [Christchurch]."