Newest HMNZS Wellington Visits Home Port

21 September 2010

HMNZS Wellington - the Navy's newest offshore patrol vessel (OPV) - is to make its first visit to the Capital this week. It berths at Queens Wharf at 10.00am on Thursday 23 September, when the new vessel and its crew of about 35 will be welcomed with a powhiri.

On Saturday 25 September at 10.30am, all crew will march to Civic Square to be read the ship's Charter by Greater Wellington Regional Council Chief Executive David Benham. The Charter details the crew's rights and privileges - including marching with drums beating, band playing, colours flying, bayonets fixed and swords drawn through the streets of the region.

Mayor Kerry Prendergast will then inspect the crew before they march - exercising the Charter rights - from Civic Square to Parliament, accompanied by the Navy Brass Band. The Charter parade leaves Civic Square at 11.15am.

The crew will later return to the Town Hall for a cake-cutting - with a ceremonial sword - performed by Mayor Prendergast and the youngest crew member. Gifts will be exchanged, with the Mayor presenting the ship's company with street signs from Lambton Quay, Cuba Street and Courtenay Place to decorate areas of the ship.

Mayor Prendergast says it will be a pleasure to welcome the new vessel and crew to the city. "This is a big day for the city and the region - it is a huge honour for the city to continue to have a naval vessel in our name."

HMNZS Wellington is the latest in a proud line of vessels to represent the region - which started with HMS Wellington in 1935. The new vessel's immediate predecessor, the frigate Wellington, made its first visit to the Capital in the late 1970s. It was sunk off Island Bay in 2005 for use as a diving attraction.

Mayor Prendergast says anyone who wants to check out the Wellington will be delighted to find there's an open day on Sunday 26 September.

"You'll be able to get on board and have a good look around the ship and meet some of the crew. It's actually going to be quite a fantastic weekend along the waterfront that weekend. We've got the ship's open day, the Italian Festival all day that same day at the Stadium, the World Press Photo Exhibition in Shed 11 and of course the wonderful World of WearableArt will have kicked off their series by then at the TSB Bank Arena. The city will be humming this weekend," says Mayor Prendergast.

The open day will take place from 10.00am to 3.00pm.

A Wellington school has been adopted as the ship's charity. Kimi Ora School in Thorndon, a special needs school for primary school children, has been given a lifelong association with the vessel.

The 85 metre-long, 1900-tonne Wellington is the second OPV commissioned by the New Zealand Navy. It was built at the Tenix shipyard in Melbourne, and is similar to patrol vessels bought by the Maritius Coastguard and the Irish Navy. Its sister vessel, the HMNZS Otago, was launched in 2006 and accepted into the fleet in February 2010.

The new patrol vessels can go further offshore, stay at sea longer and take on more challenging operations than an inshore vessel. The Wellington can also accommodate a Seasprite helicopter.

The Wellington's strengthened hull means the vessel can enter icy waters. Though not designed as an ice-breaker, the vessel will be able to confidently go further into the Southern Ocean than before.

Together with the P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft, the Wellington will patrol the New Zealand Exclusive Economic Zone, the Southern Ocean and South Pacific. Surveillance will mostly be carried out for Government agencies such as the Customs Service and the Immigration Service.

Other secondary duties could include maritime counter-terrorism, disaster relief operations, VIP transport, the collection of environmental data and defence aid for civilians.