Iftikhar Khan and Sajeela Malik moved to New Zealand with their children Sameed and Nubeerah in 2004.

It has been a "rollercoaster ride" of ups and downs, job losses and relocations, but Friday's terror attack was a low point they never thought of.

The Pakistani family had been living in Dubai, and considered New Zealand "a new safe haven".

Iftikhar Khan and Sajeela Malik. Photo / Ben Fraser
Iftikhar Khan and Sajeela Malik. Photo / Ben Fraser

"We knew there was the beauty, the good education, good infrastructure, good systems, there were not people to be scared of or people that try to make your life miserable," Iftikhar told the Rotorua Daily Post yesterday.

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The family was welcomed into an Islamic community of 30 to 40 people in Rotorua.

For the last two-and-a-half years, Iftikhar has been preaching at the city's Islamic centre.

Flowers outside the Rotorua Islamic Centre. Photo / Ben Fraser
Flowers outside the Rotorua Islamic Centre. Photo / Ben Fraser

"We have been fundraising between us to make our centre better. We have a small shanty at the moment and we do want to make it a proper mosque, and bigger, but we can't afford it right now."

Friday's brutality has shaken the group.

"The attack looked just like a game. Most of the time since, we have just wanted to cry. I mean 49 people, now 50, all killed."

A police officer stands guard in front of the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Christchurch. Photo / AP
A police officer stands guard in front of the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Christchurch. Photo / AP

The parents have focused on helping their children through the trauma.

"They need us," Sajeela Malik said.

"My son, he has not slept yet."

Sameed used to love video games but hasn't touched them since.

Iftikhar brought him to Saturday night's vigil to show him the community support.

Vigil for Christchurch at Te Papaiouru Marae in Rotorua. Photo / Ben Fraser
Vigil for Christchurch at Te Papaiouru Marae in Rotorua. Photo / Ben Fraser

"I salute all those who came to show solidarity, it really gave us strength," Iftikhar said.

Nabeerah, 21, has been trying to distract herself with university assignments.

"The toughest part is social media. It really shows the true colours of some people."

She said the shooter's motives were not a shock but his actions were.

"I think we all know some racist idiot but it is one thing to say those things, and another to do something so horrific."

Iftikhar said Australian senator Fraser Anning's comments were disturbing.

"In New Zealand, we have a very good screening system, and I have only recently been able to become a citizen."

Vigil for Christchurch at Te Papaiouru Marae in Rotorua. Photo / Ben Fraser
Vigil for Christchurch at Te Papaiouru Marae in Rotorua. Photo / Ben Fraser

The family did not know those in the Christchurch mosques but had many friends who did.

"We have had lots of calls from people overseas. They just saw New Zealand in the headlines and instantly called, or texted, sent Facebook messages to check we were safe."

Iftikhar said it would be easy to get on a plane and go home, but his family was committed to life in New Zealand.

"We want to be here no matter what, through the good and the bad. We love this country."