Tens of thousands of people have turned out at dawn services commemorating Anzac Day across New Zealand and the world, providing a chance for gratitude and quiet reflection.

The Prime Minister today said he was heartened by the number of young people showing an interest in the ceremony while the Governor-General has thanked veterans for their service.

One of the biggest turnouts took place at the Auckland War Memorial Museum where an estimated 5000 people gathered in the chilly pre-dawn darkness.

Elsewhere throughout New Zealand communities have paused to honour those who had fought for freedom hailing back to the Gallipoli campaign in World War I.


Wreaths have been laid at cenotaphs and odes recited as the country reflects on the somber cost of peace.

Numbers attending services have continued to swell with many young people attending with parents, some bedecked in old uniforms and medals belonging to grandfathers and great-grandfathers.

Prime Minister Bill English, who attended the dawn service at Wellington's Pukeahu National War Memorial, said younger generations appeared to be more aware of the significance of Anzac Day than his generation.

"Young people today, I think, understand Anzac Day. They are taught it better, they know it better than my generation did 30-40 years ago."

He said a recent visit to former battle sites on the former Western Front in Europe brought home the horror of war and the sacrifice of those enlisted to secure our freedom.

"What struck me was the familiarity of the landscape. It looks like New Zealand," he told TVNZ.

"And that really brought home to me the huge losses that were faced, particularly by a small community.

"It made me understand, I suppose, what it was like for young New Zealanders to turn up in a place that turned out to be a hellhole where so many of their comrades were lost. And that's why we gather here today."

The Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy today paid tribute to veterans for their service and commitment to the country.

She referred to the Battle of the Somme in 1917, where New Zealand's casualty figures were almost equal to that of the Gallipoli campaign two years earlier.

"For the bereaved, an Anzac Day service was the nearest thing to a funeral that their loved ones would ever had," Reddy said.

Australian Secretary of Defence Dennis Richardson, attending his first Anzac Day ceremony in New Zealand, paid tribute to all former and current members of the defence force.

"This is a day of thanks and quiet reflection. We are reminded of the debt of gratitude of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. The bond between New Zealand and Australia is unlike that of any other."

New Zealand soldiers continued to be involved in more than a dozen conflict zones around the globe, many times serving alongside Australian defence forces.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff spoke of how the cost of peace was felt keenly at a personal level with the death of his nephew, Matt Ferrara, who died serving in the United States Army in Afghanistan in 2007.

Ceremonies continue throughout the country with a National Commemoration Service at Pukeahu at 11am.