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Armed police to be deployed at Anzac Day services

Andrew McRae, Veterans' Affairs Reporter

Police say that while there's no specific threat to Anzac Day on Thursday, security will be tight.

A soldier at last year's Auckland dawn service at the War Memorial Museum. Photo: RNZ / Tom Furley

The national threat level is now at medium after reaching its highest level following the 15 March mosque attacks in Christchurch.

Officers will be armed but police are not revealing the number being deployed.

The number of commemorative services has been reduced in the Auckland region following advice from police.

Most services around the rest of the country are going ahead.

Fifty-eight services were canned in Auckland leaving 26. The reduction came after police were worried about stretching resources to provide security.

Police said the advice to the Returned and Services Association (RSA) to consolidate services was not taken lightly and was made for the safety of everyone involved.

Police said the priority is public safety and they will not compromise on that.

Auckland RSA president Graham Gibson said while it is a shame some services have been cancelled, the decision was an easy one to make.

"The RSA is taking a bit of a hit but my (local) presidents have been very supportive of the decision made and we still stand by that.

"Maybe things next year will get back to normal but it doesn't hurt to take certain precautions and we are all geared up for it and it is going to be a great day."

From 18,000 to 20,000 people are expected at the Dawn Service and a similar number at the 11am service.

Graham Gibson said security will be noticeably greater than on previous Anzac Days.

"Quite tight security around the Cenotaph in the (Auckland) Domain and around the other sites and it is just a precaution."

He said the veteran community knows that the public attending services will be safe.

Prince William will be a special guest at the 11am service at the Auckland War Memorial Museum.

While the spotlight might be on Auckland, there are 186 other Anzac Day services being held around the country on Thursday.

In the small community of Hari Hari in Westland, with a population of about 400, 70 people are expected to turnout for an 11am service.

Its RSA president Angela Anderson said it is a big day for the town.

"We form up at the Memorial building, we have a few speeches and then we march on down to the cemetery gates where wreaths and poppies are laid and we then disband and go to the Hari Hari Motor Inn for breakfast."

Soldiers from Burnham Military Camp will attend the service in Hari Hari.

The national president of the RSA, BJ Clark, said he fully understands that the Christchurch attacks are still in the minds of people, which it should be.

He has a strong message for the public.

"The thing I ask is that people still take the opportunity to attend an Anzac service to remember those that have served.

"Family members of those who died in war should be given the opportunity to remember, to grieve and in fact celebrate the service of those people."

Mr Clark said a larger police presence at Anzac Day services is a sign of the times.

"The police are very experienced at their work. They will be there but they will be subtle in their appearance and attendance and that should be no reason for the public to feel any concern or worry just because the police are around."

Police said it is important people not only feel safe to attend Anzac Day services but are safe.

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