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Rongomau me te haumaru

Living in peaceful times doesn’t just mean being peaceful within our homes, land, and country. We are a Pacific Island nation, surrounded by water. To protect our country beyond dry ground, we need a Navy.

We sometimes refer to ourselves as a ‘large oceanic nation’ because New Zealand’s interests and territory extend further than the coastline – which, as it happens, is the ninth longest in the world. New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone, sitting 200 nautical miles out from New Zealand, is approximately 15 times our land area and is one of the largest EEZs in the world.

And beyond, we have responsibilities towards the Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau. We also have a sector of Antarctica, the Ross Dependency, for which we maintain an interest under the Antarctic Treaty of 1961.

But the New Zealand Defence Force, and its Navy, projects itself wider than that. Peace and security isn’t something that one country handles alone. We partner with other countries, such as Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada, to promote global peace and security. Globally, there are more challenges. Different countries around the world are pursuing goals that are threats to peace. There are people who pursue extreme ideologies. Organised crime is international. Countries like New Zealand are stronger when we work with other countries to promote peace and security. 

We protect the world-wide concept of free passage, free trade and freedom of navigation because New Zealand – and many other nations - are so dependent on these concepts. Most of our country’s exports (90 per cent) and most of its imports are transported by the sea. We are vulnerable to anything that affects maritime trade, and we need to protect it.

Our Navy has responded to calls for help when other countries are having conflicts. Navy personnel take part in peacekeeping operations around the world. Naval vessels and people have been deployed to East Timor, Solomon Islands, Sudan, the Middle East, the Korean Peninsula and Afghanistan.

Our frigates have deployed to the Indian Ocean, Arabian Gulf and the Horn of Africa to help protect trade routes and prevent piracy and terrorism.

Closer to home, our Navy vessels conduct regular border and resource protection patrols supporting Customs and Ministry for Primary Industries, Search and Rescue operations, as well as supporting other agencies including the New Zealand Police, the National Emergency Management Agency, and Department of Conservation.

Our Inshore Patrol Vessels work around the New Zealand coast and two Offshore Patrol Vessels conduct similar work in the Southern Ocean and the South Pacific.

The Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA) between the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore are one of the longest-running defence arrangements in the world. Conducting regular military exercises between the military forces of the five countries since 1981 enhances interoperability and promotes stability and security in the Southeast Asian region.


Five nations commit to defend and protect the newly formed states of Singapore and Malaysia whilst they build their defence capability. Following the reduction of forces in Southeast Asia from the United Kingdom, the FPDA are established and agree that in the event of any form of threat of armed attack the member countries will “immediately consult together for the purpose of deciding what measures should be taken jointly or separately.”


Although not a formal alliance, the FPDA evolve to include a multilateral training exercise program with all five countries regularly coming together to conduct complex exercises involving air, maritime and land forces. These tactical and operational training activities enhance military interoperability between the five nations becoming the only defence arrangements of their kind in Southeast Asia.


Responding to changing global threats, the first FPDA Exercise Bersama Lima (translates to "Together Five" in Malay) commences. This is a new large-scale military training exercise executing multi-threat scenarios from counter-terrorism and maritime security to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief tasks around the region. The combined joint exercise involves 3,500 military personnel, 31 ships, 60 aircraft, and two submarines operating from the Command and Control facility at Paya Lebar Air Base in Singapore. The Royal New Zealand Navy deploys the naval frigates HMNZS Ships Te Kaha and Te Mana to participate in Exercise Bersama Lima 04, supported by the tanker, HMNZS Endeavour.


Almost every year the NZDF deploy a contingent to Exercise Bersama Lima, participating in tactical training scenarios alongside other FPDA nations using air, land, and maritime assets. 

At sea, the Royal New Zealand Navy contributes to the battle staff that command Maritime Task Group 657.1 on the eastern seaboard of Malaysia for Exercise Bersama Lima 19. The team plans and executes a two-week sea phase to mould ships KD Lekiu and Kasturi from Malaysia, RSS Persistence, Valour, and Vigour from Singapore, and HMAS Sirius from Australia, into an effective task group.

The Maritime Task Group proceeds to Kuantan where, as they plan, a multitude of fast jets and aircraft touch down, ready to go to battle. The task group gets used to operating with other militaries, and the battle staff embark on RSS Persistence to direct the Combat Essential Training/ Force Integration Training (CET/FIT) phase of the exercise. The aim is to build the trust and confidence in working together as a new task group, and to generate combat capability in support of the overarching mission as part of Exercise Bersama Lima. 

It was really cool to be involved in such a dynamic exercise where the assets that we rarely get to play with were available in abundance

Lieutenant Trent Nancekivell, HMNZS Te Kaha

After anchoring at Tioman Island, the staff debrief and move into the War Exercise (WAREX) phase. With the assets split into opposing red and blue forces, both sides are tasked with winning the fight over the other.


Royal New Zealand Navy frigate HMNZS Te Kaha and replenishment tanker HMNZS Aotearoa, with a Seasprite helicopter on board, are participating in Exercise Bersama Gold 2021, in Malaysia in October. Approximately 270 Navy and Air Force personnel are deploying on the two ships. These exercises build friendships, share cultures, enhance interoperability, and continue to hone our warfare techniques. 2021 marks the 50th anniversary of the FPDA - a unique and enduring multinational defence engagement maintaining peace and security in the Southeast Asia region.

A state of civil war had existed between the Government of Papua New Guinea and the people of Bougainville since prior to 1990.


HMNZ Ships Waikato, Endeavour and Wellington deploy to host peace talks between the Government of Papua New Guinea and the island of Bougainville.

A state of civil war has existed between the Government of Papua New Guinea and the people of Bougainville since prior to 1990. The Bougainvillean people had forced the close down of the Panguna Copper Mine (a subsidiary of Rio Tinto Zinc) in May 1989, which was then the world’s largest open pit copper and gold mine. The mining operation had progressively poisoned the Jaba River, destroying wildlife and affecting the general health of people along the river. The dispute was essentially a landowner’s revolt over the lack of reinvestment made in Bougainville, given the massive profits generated by the mine. The mine’s profits accounted for some 40 percent of Papua New Guinea’s gross domestic product.

When Waikato anchors in Kieta Harbour, her Commanding Officer and the ship’s Maori Culture Group proceed ashore to make first contact. Later, a delegation embarks onto Waikato and they proceed to sea, while HMNZS Wellington collects the Papua New Guinean delegation. A Wasp helicopter is used to transport both the Papua New Guinea and Bougainville delegations to Endeavour, now positioned in international waters, for peace talks.

Eventually the Endeavour Accord is signed by both parties. It provides for the restoration of services to Bougainville and commits Papua New Guinea to further discussions regarding the constitutional future of Bougainville.


Unfortunately, peace doesn’t last. By 1996, after various attempts to negotiate between the PNG government and Bougainville rebels, the New Zealand Government hosts a series of talks by the warring parties.


A truce is negotiated, with an unarmed New Zealand-led multi-national Truce Monitoring Group (TMG) inserted into the island. Navy personnel are assigned to the TMG, and HMNZ Ships Canterbury, Endeavour and Manawanui are deployed to assist the insertion of the group. The event is famous for an unarmed military force earning the trust and confidence of the Bougainville locals with cultural and people-to-people connections. A cease-fire is finally agreed in 1998.

In 2018, the Royal New Zealand Navy took part in New Zealand's largest military exercise ever conducted in the South West Pacific.

May 2018

Two ships, HMNZS Wellington and HMNZS Canterbury, with over 500 sailors, soldiers and airmen, carry out an amphibious assault against a fictitious armed criminal group who are occupying Epi Island in Vanuatu.

The scenario is a situation the NZDF deliberately trains for in the event of a breakdown of law and order, when a nation cannot cope with the situation themselves. The exercise also practices our ability to train in a tropical environment.

HMNZS Wellington deploys Navy divers, hydrographers and special operations forces to conduct assessments of beach landing zones, prior to the main landings being launched from HMNZS Canterbury. The larger ship’s landings begins with combat engineers and infantry in zodiacs, to secure a beach, then the ship’s landing craft start deploying troops, vehicles and local police to the shore. Lifting off from HMNZS Canterbury is an Air Force NH90 helicopter, which will fly over the northern part of the island as a distraction for the rebels, planned to give the infantry more time to advance towards the enemy’s position.

Exercises like these are completely 'joint' operations, with HMNZS Canterbury hosting the Command Headquarters with the Joint Task Force Commander on board.

Considering a career in the Navy?

Together we protect New Zealand’s interests at sea. Our Navy carries out a range of tasks including combat operations, search and rescue, underwater recovery, trade protection and peacekeeping. Whatever the mission, you’ll find that there’s a real tight-knit camaraderie whether you’re at sea, at home or abroad.

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