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Navy ships return to sea in Hauraki Gulf

HMNZS Otago, pictured with a Seasprite helicopter hovering overhead, is one of four Royal New Zealand Navy ships that will be visible in the Hauraki Gulf over the next few weeks as they carry out training essential to maritime operations. Supplied photo.

The public will see more activity by Royal New Zealand Navy ships this week, as they carry out training in the Hauraki Gulf.

Maritime Component Commander Commodore Mat Williams says under COVID-19 restrictions non-essential training had been postponed for the past four weeks, even though operational capability was able to be maintained while the ships were moored at Devonport Naval Base.

“However, as an essential service we must be ready to respond for missions such as search and rescue, border control – including patrol of our exclusive economic zone supporting other government agencies – and humanitarian aid and disaster relief."

Four RNZN ships will be training in the Hauraki Gulf from April 28 to May 22.

HMNZS Hawea and HMNZS Otago will be at sea for about three weeks over that period, with HMNZS Canterbury and HMNZS Manawanui at sea for shorter spells.

Seasprite helicopters would also be participating in the training, including flying to and from the ships.

HMNZS Canterbury will undergo maintenance soon to ensure it is ready for the next cyclone season, having spent the past seven months at short notice to respond to natural disasters in the Pacific.

During this time it visited the Subantarctic Islands to support work by Department of Conservation and other government agencies, as well as removing workers from Raoul Island at the beginning of the COVID-19 emergency.

HMNZS Manawanui, the RNZN’s new diving and hydrographic survey vessel, is continuing its introduction into service, while simultaneously being ready should it be required.

Mat says maintaining readiness, especially during times of emergency, is business as usual for the New Zealand Defence Force and planning for this activity had been in progress for some time.

Procedures have also been developed to ensure compliance with the national COVID-19 requirements, including medical screening, physical distancing, increased hygiene measures, and more rigorous and regular on-board cleaning routines.

While the ships might be seen around the New Zealand coast, they would not be conducting port visits so as to eliminate the possibility of regional transmission of COVID-19, says Mat.

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