An estimated 8,500 braved the Whangārei crisp morning breeze to attend the city's annual ANZAC Day commemorations held at Laurie Hall Park, in the heart of the city.
NZ First MP, and Minister of Regional Development, Shane Jones says that the calibre of those who did not return was "second-to-none."
"A lot of them could not even fit their boots provided. They were physically superior, 'well-built', and tall. The saddest thing is that, they did not return home" laments Mr. Jones.
Wreaths were laid by representatives from numerous Northland primary and secondary schools, with the regions politicians also taking part in the main section of the ceremonial events conducted by the Whangārei Returned Servicemen Association.
"It is a poignant reminder of how much these people really mean to us here in Whangārei" says mayor, Sheryl Mai.
Mai, and other representatives from Whangārei District Council were on hand as the numerous RSA spokesmen announced the lead initative this year - "Not All Wounds Bleed." A graphic commentary on the harsh effects of psychological damaged endured by returned servicemen.
"They were a different breed. They were not scared. They would never take a backward step. They would charge at all costs. Their extreme bravery that is rightfully commended may have in fact been their own downfall" questions Mr. Jones, himself a descendant of at least 3 returned servicemen, all who did not return home from World War II.
Meanwhile, Northland marae held their own commemorative events to support families of their surrounding localities. Local Whangārei marae, Pehiāweri and their hapū, Ngāti Hau hosting the President of the 28 Māori Battalion Association, Rawson Wright (Ngāti Hau, Te Uri o Hau, Ngāti Porou) and his family today.
"We need to do more. Sometimes we need to think, and ask, 'Have I really done enough?'" says Wright, who has been at the helm of the 28 Māori Battalion Association in the North for the past decade.
The Returned Servicemen Association are yet to disclose the initiative that will take place for national commemorations in 2019.