Whakatāne mayor Tony Bonne has described a weekend visit to a Hamilton mosque as the driver behind tonight's community gathering.

Bonne said he, his wife Linda, and two exchange students were on their way to Hamilton for a Rotary conference when he first heard of the Christchurch terror attacks.

"I believed we were listening to fake news," Bonne said. "It was incomprehensible.

"On Saturday we went to a mosque and talked to the people there. It's hard to put the experience into words but it did make me realise we needed to organise something in Whakatāne so people could grieve."

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A community gathering has been organised for 7pm tonight at Wharaurangi on The Strand.

Bonne said the gathering would be an opportunity for people to express love and support for the Muslim community and offer heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of all who lost their lives.

"It will also be a chance to extend our prayers for the recovery of all of the people who were injured," he said.

"A time like this unites the community as one and together, we want to make it absolutely clear that this act by one individual will not weaken our shared Kiwi values."

He listed the values as; tolerance for the views and beliefs of others, acceptance of diversity and compassion – as individuals, whānau, communities and as a country.

Bonne said the gathering was a time to reflect on what had happened; and on the things that we may be able to do, to try and ensure that such senseless acts could not happen again.