The Returned and Services Association (RSA) has made the decision to cancel any public Anzac Day events this year and is postponing its national Poppy Day appeal.

The decision means it will be the first time Anzac Day services have been cancelled since they were started in 1915.

It is the first time Poppy Day has been postponed since 1922.

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Gatherings of 500 or more people held both out and indoors were advised to be cancelled by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday.

Following that announcement, national RSA president BJ Clark said: "We need to consider the demographic we have in our RSA and that would be attending Anzac Day parades."

"It's our responsibility to remember and acknowledge those that have served but also to ensure our members and the public are kept safe."

Clark described the virus as a "powerful and dangerous foe".

"RSA's and the communities they are part of, all-over New Zealand must fight hard to protect our whanau and kaumatua from the transmission of this virus in keeping our proud memories of service and sacrifice. For this reason, RSA has decided that it is in the best interests of all New Zealanders to take these decisions"

As well as being "completely gutted" by cancelling the services, he said there will be huge financial consequences for delaying the National Poppy Day appeal.

"It scares me even thinking about it, we have RSA's that are already at the bottom of the coffers for supporting veterans and without those funds this year, when a veteran comes to the door we'll have to say look, there's nothing there."

Chief Executive Karen Rolleston told the Herald that everyone is extremely disappointed about the cancellations over the public gatherings.


"This is the most important commemorate day in the New Zealand's calendar," she said.

"Hundreds and thousands of New Zealanders get out and support us on Anzac and not to be able to do that is absolutely gut-wrenching."

She said they are working on alternative plans with other agencies and announcement would be made shortly on how Kiwis across the country can still show their support and commemorate in a safe and sensible way.

When making the decision to cancel the public events, Rolleston said the RSA consulted widely with the Government, health agencies and members and considered a lot of information.

"Some people were a bit critical that we were too slow to announce, but we wanted to be able to consider all information that was out there and made sure we had correct information."

Rolleston encouraged New Zealanders not to forget about Anzac Day just because events have been cancelled.


"When we provide the public with an alternate plan, please take that up and show your support in these difficult times."

There are now 20 confirmed cases of coronavirus in New Zealand.

Following the events of March 15 last year, the number of Anzac Day services were reduced due to safety concerns.