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Ceremonial homeports

Paying a visit home

From time to time, a Royal New Zealand Navy ship will make a ‘homeport’ visit and re-engage with its adopted community.

Although all Navy ships are based out of Devonport Naval Base, each ship or unit with an ‘HMNZS’ in front of its name has an affiliation to a region of New Zealand and a ceremonial 'homeport’ in that region. HMNZS Otago, for example, is affiliated to Otago and her ceremonial homeport is Dunedin.

The homeports are a legacy of a time, particularly before World War 2, when Navy ships made annual tours of New Zealand, hosting locals and dignitaries on board, and in turn being hosted at events in town. Today, the ship and its crew receive a charter from the local authority in their homeport, granting them the ‘freedom of the city’ that allows them the right to parade through the streets without interference. It is customary for ship’s companies to exercise this freedom when they visit, for the enjoyment of locals and the city or district council.

A particularly notable charter is the one presented to the entire Royal New Zealand Navy from Te Tai Tokerau in 1990, cementing the relationship the Navy has with the Waitangi Day commemorations in the Bay of Islands.

Ship open days, visits to schools and rest homes, and sailors undertaking community work in their homeport are all part of a typical homeport visit. Some visits are timed with Anzac Day, to allow the crew to join with the local RSA in commemorating the fallen.

The ship’s symbol of command, carried by the Commanding Officer during official engagements, is crafted using materials and artistry from the region. Each carries a locally-crafted mauri, its life force, as an object secured internally, near the ‘heart’ of the ship.

Ships usually have a charity they sponsor, and/or a local school, on an ongoing basis. Each year HMNZS Te Kaha provides an education grant to a student at Hastings Boys’ High School, for university studies.