As we approach one year since the tragic events in Christchurch on March 15, The News asked the Queenstown Lakes and Central Otago mayors to share their thoughts on how the local community responded and what has changed since that terrible day.
CENTRAL OTAGO MAYOR TIM CADOGAN
People said at the time that 15/3 was when New Zealand lost its innocence, but to me it was when we lost our naivety.
I remember clearly the memorial service Wayne Perkins and I organised for the Sunday straight after the attacks and how people came together, I think simply out of a need to stand as one.
There were a lot of tears that day. I remember Robin Austin brilliantly choosing to sing the full National Anthem and hearing those words, so apt for the occasion, probably for the first time.
I recall a young Muslim couple who drove some distance to be there and arrived late, giving us a chance to sit and talk with them. I remember the young mother, holding their gorgeous child crying in fear for what she felt being a Muslim in New Zealand now meant. It broke my heart.
I remember a couple of days later standing on a stage in Earnslaw Park in Queenstown at a huge service there and looking out over the crowd and seeing heavily armed police for the first time in New Zealand. For a moment I felt some fear, I felt like a target. Then I realised that was what every moment must have felt like for the Muslim man standing next to me following the attacks.
I remember the fundamental goodness of most New Zealanders that shone through after that terrible day. I hope we all keep working to ensure the pride in what most of us thought being a New Zealander meant after the attacks is pride in a reality, not an image.
QUEENSTOWN LAKES MAYOR JIM BOULT
I look back on a year ago and my memory is one of disbelief that such an event happened in our beautiful little country. We previously thought we were immune from large-scale terrorism. How wrong we were.
Following the Christchurch massacre we instantly recognised our Muslim brothers and sisters as our own and stood with them in unimaginable grief.
It was humbling to witness the unity of our communities. Residents and visitors of many ethnicities and religious backgrounds stood together in mourning and condemned the violence which sits so far outside of the common values of New Zealanders.
Can there ever be any good to come from such evil? Perhaps there was some.
I think in our community, and probably the whole of New Zealand, there is a great deal more tolerance and understanding of people who have different beliefs than our own. In defiance of the perpetrator of this atrocity this is a lesson we must always ensure is carried front of mind.
Sadly, I’ve been reminded of this recently through some racist comments made in relation to the coronavirus outbreak.
These types of comments are the tip of the iceberg which lead to the type of event which occurred on March 15, 2019.
Let’s not go back there or allow this to ever occur in New Zealand again.