Hundreds gathered for Hastings' Anzac Dawn Service, witnessing a parade along Russell St to the Cenotaph led by cavalry in World War I uniform.

The Australian and New Zealand national anthems were sung and Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst spoke of the pain experienced by families and survivors "struggling to lead happy lives".

"This morning we gather to pay tribute to our men and women who served bravely for our country and who bravely, courageously sacrificed their lives for our peace, our freedom," she said.

"Today the world continues to face unrest, conflict, racism, hatred and fear.

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"More than ever we must remain united in love and acceptance, for only love and acceptance will bring love and acceptance to the world."

This year's guest speaker for the Anzac address was Ngati Kahungunu chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana, who said the human spirit had risen above "the dread and terror of the battlefields of the world".

"From horror has come hope, from death has come the dream of peace, from bloodbaths has come beauty, from the "Last Post" have come love songs - in prose and poetry and compositions."

His grandfather Paraire Henare Tomoana composed the song E Pari Ra, "which depicts the cliff of Anzac Cove and the waves beating against it, with blood crimson red".

"He turned that into the sobbing of the heart of the mothers back in New Zealand and Australia crying for their sons.

"The blood of their sons, ebbing out with the tide back to the shores of New Zealand and Australia. And the tears of grief and sorrow and aroha of the mother, returning with the receding tide to the cliffs of Gallipoli."

Tomoana's song was sung as well as his most well-known composition, the love song Pokarekare Ana.

After wreath laying, the "Last Post" was played followed by a minute's silence and a prayer.

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Returned Services Association representative John Sturgess thanked all who contributed to the Dawn Service.

"The recent tragic events in Christchurch could have derailed our annual commemoration to those who lost their lives defending freedom and democracy," he said.

"We have continuously observed that remembrance for over 100 years and to have lost it would have been disastrous.

"However, we are here. It is heart warming to see all our people young and old turning out in great numbers for this remembrance service."

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