When official Anzac Day events were cancelled all around the country due to the Covid-19 pandemic the residents of a Bay of Islands street decided to hold their own dawn ceremony.

More than 50 residents of Yorke Rd in Haruru Falls— including young families, uniformed firefighters, pensioners, a Vietnam veteran and a cat — got up before daybreak on Saturday to honour the nation's service men and women at an improvised street corner memorial of tea lights, poppies and crosses.

In another sign of these strange times, all stood alone or in their family bubbles, spaced 2m apart in the darkened street.

Kayla Taituha lays a wreath during the Yorke Rd ceremony with daughter Maia Taituha-Harrison. Photo / Peter de Graaf
Kayla Taituha lays a wreath during the Yorke Rd ceremony with daughter Maia Taituha-Harrison. Photo / Peter de Graaf

READ MORE:
First coronavirus case in Northland, Anzac Day cancelled
Covid 19 coronavirus: Northland police checkpoint: Disqualified driver also breaching lockdown
Covid 19 coronavirus: Northland police warn Aucklanders not to head north this long weekend
Covid 19 coronavirus: Northlanders urged to Stand At Dawn to mark Anzac Day

Advertisement

With no bagpiper or bugler in the neighbourhood they made do with recordings on a portable sound system but the lowering and raising of the flag, and the sentiment, were real.

The residents recited karakia, read poems in English and te reo Māori, and laid wreaths as dawn turned the sky a vivid pink.

The event organiser, Māori business leader Karleen Everitt, used her speech to link battles of the past with New Zealanders' current battle against an invisible enemy.

More than 50 people, all separated by bubbles and the regulation 2m, took part in the Yorke Rd Anzac Day ceremony. Photo / Peter de Graaf
More than 50 people, all separated by bubbles and the regulation 2m, took part in the Yorke Rd Anzac Day ceremony. Photo / Peter de Graaf

"Our enemy today does not hold a gun or a bayonet, instead it is a virus. As we stand 2m apart we stand together as one."

She paid tribute not just to the service men and women of past conflicts, but also to the emergency service personnel and essential workers — from the Prime Minister to the cleaners and supermarket staff — serving on today's front line.

Everitt urged her neighbours to remain resolute and to keep treating each other with kindness.

Cheryl Taylor and Vietnam veteran Bruce Gordon at the Yorke Rd Anzac Day ceremony in Haruru Falls. Photo / Peter de Graaf
Cheryl Taylor and Vietnam veteran Bruce Gordon at the Yorke Rd Anzac Day ceremony in Haruru Falls. Photo / Peter de Graaf

Bruce Gordon, who served with the 2RAR/Victor 5 Anzac Battalion in Vietnam in 1970-71, said he got even more out of Saturday's Yorke Rd event than he did from the big services in town.

"This was more personal. We all know each other."

Advertisement

The dawn service was another step in the residents' journey of getting to know each other, ironically brought about by a virus which means they are forced to stay apart.

Everitt said before Covid-19 neighbours would give each other a nod or maybe a wave as they drove by but they didn't really know each other.

Now they were stronger as a community and more connected, she said.

The Foley family pay their respects at the Yorke Rd Anzac Day ceremony in Haruru Falls, from left, Manaia, 7, Laura, Atawhai, 3, Tim and Kimiora, 2. Photo / Peter de Graaf
The Foley family pay their respects at the Yorke Rd Anzac Day ceremony in Haruru Falls, from left, Manaia, 7, Laura, Atawhai, 3, Tim and Kimiora, 2. Photo / Peter de Graaf

These days Yorke Rd doesn't only get together for solemn occasions.

Every Tuesday and Thursday at 11am the residents come to the end of their driveways while Everitt gets out her sound system and cranks up the volume. And then, for two songs, they dance.