Christchurch attack, one year on: Mayor Lianne Dalziel says 'disbelief' has stayed with her

As the Christchurch shooting tragedy was underway, school students were taking part in climate strikes in Cathedral Square.

Among the MPs and city leaders in attendance was Christchurch City Mayor Lianne Dalziel. 

She had just walked off stage at the event when she was alerted to what was unfolding.

"I was shown a phone that indicated there'd been a shooting and there were people on the ground," she recalls.

Dalziel's reaction, she said, was, "it couldn't possibly be true".

A year on, she tells Newshub that sense of disbelief has stayed with her.

"I actually dismissed it - I couldn't believe something like that could happen in Christchurch," she said. 

"I just felt a pit in my stomach. I could feel just the shock - a physical feeling of shock.

MP Megan Woods, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, and Christchurch City Mayor Lianne Dalziel on Friday.
MP Megan Woods, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, and Christchurch City Mayor Lianne Dalziel on Friday. Photo credit: Supplied

"It was really hard to absorb just the significance of it."

On March 22, an Islamic call to prayer was broadcast nationally as the community gathered in Hagley Park - opposite Al Noor Mosque - to remember the victims.

Dalziel said that call to prayer one week after the mosque attacks will remain embedded in the memories of those who watched throughout the world.

She said it was the most powerful expression of solidarity and unity you could see.

"The thousands of Christchurch residents that just turned up - not necessarily to pray - but to send a powerful message that 'we've got your back' to their Muslim neighbours was incredibly moving."

Dalziel. Photo credit: The AM Show

Dalziel said there are many people determined to make the 'we are one' mantra real.

Many have reached out to minority communities throughout the city since the tragedy, she said.

"I think that's still a journey that we're on as a city," she said.

"What's really changed for me has been the knowledge that no matter what happens, communities will come together and will support each other."