Anti-racism the March 15 legacy: Ardern

Ben McKay

Jacinda Ardern remembers plainly what she was doing when the first reports of a shooting in Christchurch began filtering in last March.

"I was in a van travelling to visit a school in New Plymouth," she said.

"I was handed the phone and started getting briefings initially from the Minister of Police.

"At that point we knew there was a shooting. We didn't know how many. We didn't know if it was a coordinated attack.

"I recall being told maybe two or three fatalities.

"I remember saying I need to get back to Wellington.

"The magnitude (became clear) when I managed to get to a space where I could switch on the news and I saw the images of the St John ambulances rolling in.

"The scale of it and the numbers then were becoming clearer.

"And it was devastating."

Soon enough, the New Zealand prime minister was confronting the horror of the March 15 terror attack in Christchurch.

An attack on two mosques left 51 worshippers dead, with dozens more injured, and millions more scarred.

Ms Ardern believes it has changed New Zealand.

The victims and the survivors of the attack say the day has not left them, a year on.

"It still feels like it happened yesterday," Abdul Aziz told AAP.

"For us, it's not like it's been one year.

"Everything is fresh in the mind. And yet we have to move on with our lives."

Mr Aziz is known to many as a hero from the attack.

The 49-year-old furniture shop owner helped scare the gunman away from the worshippers at the Linwood Islamic Centre, first throwing an Eftpos machine at him, then luring him away from worshippers.

In an incredible act of bravery, he rushed the armed terrorist, spooking him into fleeing in his vehicle and resulting in his apprehension by police.

On Friday, Mr Aziz spent the afternoon with fellow worshippers from both his mosque and the Al-Noor mosque, the first site targeted in last year's attack, in a combined prayer service to commemorate the day.

"I will be with my community," he said.

"Of course I will go. For me that doesn't change.

"It cannot stop us from praying, getting back together."

The tag of hero sits uncomfortably with Mr Aziz, who said "any human being would do the same".

It is Mr Aziz's hope that New Zealanders understand their roles in preventing future attacks by challenging racism in the community.

"If you see some racism, stand up and raise your voice," he said.

"Racism and hate is like a ball of fire ... If you stop it, it doesn't spread anywhere else."

On this point, Mr Aziz and his prime minister agree.

Speaking from Christchurch on Friday, Ms Ardern, who will also address a national remembrance service on Sunday, called on New Zealanders to make a commitment to anti-racism a legacy of March 15.

"If we stand up and say this is not who we are, then it's demonstrating it every single day," she said.

"The way we teach our kids.

"The way we act in our workplace.

"The way we respond to bullies and racism and discrimination.

"That is what I think that we can best do to honour the legacy of those that were lost."