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Gun salutes

Information about gun salutes performed by the New Zealand Defence Force within New Zealand.

The practice of firing gun salutes grew from naval tradition. An approaching warship would fire its cannons to show that its guns were empty, demonstrating they were unloaded and they had no hostile intent. Today all salutes are fired with blank cartridges - be it artillery, ship's guns, or small arms. 

Gun salutes are symbolic and are meant as a show of respect for an important authority. There are three types of gun salute: those fired annually marking specific occasions; those fired marking special occasions; and those fired in honour of visiting dignitaries.

The 21-gun salute is the highest honour and is reserved for the Sovereign, designated members of the Royal Family and Heads of State, and is conducted as part of their state welcome ceremony. 

21-gun salutes are fired annually from Point Jerningham in Wellington for:

6 February The accession of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
21 April The birthday (actual) of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
1st Monday of June The birthday (official as observed in New Zealand) of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
2 June The Coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II


21-gun salutes are also fired on the following state occasions:

  • The Swearing-In Ceremony for the Governor-General
  • The Farewell Ceremony for the Governor-General
  • The State Opening of Parliament

Prime Ministers and Heads of Government on official visits to New Zealand are accorded a 19-gun salute conducted as part of their state welcome ceremony. The location of the ceremony determines the location of the gun salute and the gun battery.

With the prior approval of CDF, a gun salute may also be fired in New Zealand during special ceremonies.

The 21-gun salutes fired annually and on designated state occasions as detailed above are fired by the Army’s 16th Field Regiment at Point Jerningham using the four 25-pounder guns that are stored at that location. On occasions when a 21-gun salute is conducted as part of a state welcome ceremony, the gun salute is usually fired from the grounds of Government House using four 105mm L119 Light Guns.

Salutes conducted in Auckland are generally fired by the Royal New Zealand Navy, from a Navy ship or a gun battery. 

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