Military Wiki
Royal New Zealand Navy
Te Taua Moana o Aotearoa
Founded 1 October 1941
Country  New Zealand
Allegiance HM The Queen
Branch New Zealand Defence Force
Type Navy


  • 2,166 Regular
  • 333 Reserve
  • 215 Civilian Staff



  • 5 Helicopters
March "Heart of Oak"
Anniversaries 1 October 1941 (founded)
Engagements World War II
Korean War
Malayan Emergency
Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation
Iran–Iraq War
Gulf War
Solomon Islands
East Timor
Operation Enduring Freedom
Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant General Richard Rhys Jones
Ceremonial chief Rear Admiral Jack Steer, ONZM
Commander-in-Chief Sir Jerry Mateparae, GNZM, QSO (Governor-General)
Naval Ensign Naval Ensign of New Zealand.svg
Naval Jack Flag of New Zealand.svg
Queen's Colour Queen's Colour for Royal New Zealand Navy.svg
Aircraft flown
Attack Kaman SH-2G Super Seasprite

The Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) (Maori: Te Taua Moana o Aotearoa, "The Sea Army of New Zealand") is the maritime arm of the New Zealand Defence Force. The fleet currently consists of eleven ships and five naval helicopters.


Pre–World War I

The first recorded maritime combat activity in New Zealand occurred when Dutch explorer Abel Tasman was attacked by Māori in war waka off the northern tip of the South Island in December 1642. The New Zealand Navy did not exist as a separate military force until 1941.[1] The association of the Royal Navy with New Zealand began with the arrival of Lieutenant (later Captain) James Cook in 1769, who completed two subsequent journeys to New Zealand in 1773 and 1777. Occasional visits by Royal Navy ships were made from the late 18th century until the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. William Hobson, a crucial player in the drafting of the treaty, was in New Zealand as a captain in the Royal Navy. The signing of the Treaty of Waitangi made New Zealand a colony in the British Empire, so the defence of the coastline became the responsibility of the Royal Navy. That role was fulfilled until World War I, and the Royal Navy also played a part in the New Zealand Wars: for example, a gunboat shelled fortified Māori from the Waikato River in order to defeat the Māori King Movement.

World War I and the Inter-War period

In 1909, the New Zealand government decided to fund the purchase of the battlecruiser HMS New Zealand for the Royal Navy, which saw action throughout World War I in Europe. The passing of the Naval Defence Act 1913 created the New Zealand Naval Forces, still as a part of the Royal Navy, and from 1921 to 1941 the force was known as the New Zealand Division of the Royal Navy. The first purchase by the New Zealand government for the New Zealand Naval Forces was the cruiser HMS Philomel, which escorted New Zealand land forces to occupy the German colony of Samoa in 1914. Philomel saw further action under the command of the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea, and the Persian Gulf.

Between World War I and World War II, the New Zealand Division operated 14 ships, including the cruisers HMS Achilles and HMS Leander, and the minesweeper HMS Wakakura. From 1919/1921 to October 1940, the Royal Navy formation around New Zealand was the New Zealand Station, sometimes rendered New Zealand Squadron.

World War II

Air Vice-Marshal Sir Leonard Monk Isitt (highlighted) as the New Zealand representative during the signing of the Japanese Instrument of Surrender.

HMNZS Leander and USS St. Louis fire on the Jintsu.

When Britain went to war against Germany in 1939, New Zealand promptly declared war also. The New Zealand Division of the Royal Navy became the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) from 1 October 1941, in recognition of the fact that the naval force was now largely self-sufficient and independent of the Royal Navy. Ships thereafter were prefixed HMNZS (His/Her Majesty's New Zealand Ship).

HMNZS Achilles

HMNZS Achilles participated in the first major naval battle of World War II, the Battle of the River Plate off the River Plate estuary between Argentina and Uruguay, in December 1939. Achilles and two other cruisers, HMS Ajax and HMS Exeter, were in an operation that forced the crew of the German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee to scuttle her rather than face the loss of many more German seamen's lives. This decision apparently infuriated Hitler. Achilles moved to the Pacific, and was working with the United States Navy (USN) when damaged by a Japanese bomb off New Georgia. Following repair, she served alongside the British Pacific Fleet until the war's end.

HMNZS Leander escorted the New Zealand Expeditionary Force to the Middle East in 1940, and was then deployed in the Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea, and the Indian Ocean. Leander was subjected to air and naval attack from Axis forces, conducted bombardments, and escorted convoys. In February 1941, Leander sank the Italian auxiliary cruiser Ramb I in the Indian Ocean. In 1943, after serving further time in the Mediterranean, Leander returned to the Pacific Ocean. She assisted in the destruction of the Japanese cruiser Jintsu and being seriously damaged by torpedoes during the Battle of Kolombangara. The extent of the damage to Leander saw her docked for repairs until the end of the war.

As the war progressed, the size of the RNZN greatly increased, and by the end of the war there were over 60 ships in commission. These ships participated as part of the British and Commonwealth effort against the Axis in Europe, and against the Japanese in the Pacific. They also played an important role in the defence of New Zealand, from German raiders, especially when the threat of invasion from Japan appeared imminent in 1942. Many merchant ships were requisitioned and armed for help in defence. One of these was HMNZS Monowai, which saw action against the Japanese submarine I-20 off Fiji in 1942. In 1941–1942, it was decided in an agreement between the New Zealand and United States governments that the best role for the RNZN in the Pacific was as part of the United States Navy, so operational control of the RNZN was transferred to the South West Pacific Area command, and its ships joined United States 7th Fleet taskforces.

In 1943, the light cruiser HMS Gambia was transferred to the RNZN as HMNZS Gambia. In November 1944, the British Pacific Fleet, a joint British Commonwealth military formation, was formed, based in Sydney, Australia. Most RNZN ships were transferred to the BPF, including Gambia and Achilles. They took part in the Battle of Okinawa and operations in the Sakishima Islands, near Japan. In August 1945, HMNZS Gambia was New Zealand's representative at the surrender of Japan.


HMNZS Royalist in Waitemata Harbour, 1956

RNZN ships participated in the Korean War. On 29 June, just four days after 135,000 North Korean troops crossed the 38th parallel in Korea, the New Zealand government ordered two Loch class frigates - Tutira and Pukaki to prepare to make for Korean waters, and for the whole of the war, at least two NZ vessels would be on station in the theater.[2]

On 3 July, these two first ships left Devonport Naval Base, Auckland and joined other Commonwealth forces at Sasebo, Japan, on 2 August. These vessels served under the command of a British flag officer (seemingly Flag Officer, Second-in-Command, Far East Fleet)[3] and formed part of the US Navy screening force during the Battle of Inchon, performing shore raids and inland bombardment. Further RNZN Loch class frigates joined these later - Rotoiti, Hawea, Taupo and Kaniere, as well as a number of smaller craft. Only one RNZN sailor was killed during the conflict - during the Inchon bombardments.

The Navy later participated in the Malayan Emergency, and the Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation. In the past three decades, the RNZN has operated in the Middle East a number of times. RNZN ships played a role in the Iran–Iraq War, aiding the Royal Navy in protecting neutral shipping in the Indian Ocean. Frigates were also sent to participate in the first Gulf War, and more recently Operation Enduring Freedom.[4] The RNZN has played an important part in conflicts in the Pacific as well. Naval forces were utilised in the Bougainville, Solomon Islands and East Timor conflicts of the 1990s. The RNZN often participates in United Nations peacekeeping operations. The Navy's operational authority was the Commodore, Auckland, from 1 January 1961[5] which changed to the Maritime Commander in March 1993.[6] Among the Commodores Auckland was Commodore J O'C Ross, who later wrote The White Ensign in New Zealand, and later Rear Admiral and Chief of Naval Staff John McKenzie.[7]

The RNZN has played a much broader role than just conflict-related activities. Since 1946, it has policed New Zealand's territorial waters and Exclusive Economic Zone for fisheries protection. It also aids New Zealand's deployment in Antarctica, at Scott Base.

One of the best-known roles that the RNZN played on the world stage was when the frigates Canterbury and the Otago were sent by the Labour Government of Norman Kirk to Moruroa Atoll in 1973 to protest against French nuclear testing there. The frigates were sent into the potential blast zone of the weapon, which forced France to postpone the tests.

In May 1982, the Prime Minister, Robert Muldoon, seconded the frigate HMNZS Canterbury to the Royal Navy for the duration of the Falklands War. The Canterbury was deployed to the Armilla Patrol in the Persian Gulf, to relieve a British frigate for duty in the South Atlantic. Canterbury was herself relieved by HMNZS Waikato in August.[8]

Until the 1960s, the RNZN had, in common with other Dominion navies, flown the White Ensign as a common ensign. Post-war, the foreign policies of these independent states had become more distinctive and there was a wish and a need for separate identities, particularly if one Dominion was engaged in hostilities where another was not. Thus, in 1968, the RNZN adopted its own ensign, which retains the Union Flag in a top quarter but replaces the St George's Cross with the Southern Cross constellation that is displayed on the national flag.

The RNZN Frigate HMNZS Te Mana alongside the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in the North Arabian Sea whilst taking part in Operation Enduring Freedom.

The hydrographic survey ship of the RNZN until 2012 was HMNZS Resolution, succeeding the long-serving HMNZS Monowai. Resolution was used to survey and chart the sea around New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. A small motor boat, SMB Adventure, was operated from Resolution. Resolution carried some of the most advanced survey technology available.[9] HMNZS Resolution was decommissioned at Devonport Naval Base on 27 April 2012.[10]

Modern navy

Current fleet

The RNZN is currently in a transitional period where its role is being broadened into a navy that is more versatile than in the more recent past. Formerly combat-oriented and based on the frigate, a number of new ships have been incorporated into the fleet that have given the RNZN a much broader potential platform from which to work. The categorisations of the ships used here are taken from the RNZN website.[11]

Naval Combat Force

HMNZS Te Kaha in Hong Kong.

The naval combat force currently consists of two Anzac class frigates: HMNZS Te Kaha and HMNZS Te Mana. Both ships are based at the Devonport Naval Base on Auckland's North Shore. Te Kaha was commissioned on 26 July 1997 and Te Mana on 10 December 1999.

The specifications and armaments of the two ships are identical.[12][13]

Naval Patrol Force

HMNZS Wellington in port at Wellington

The Naval Patrol Force (NPF) is responsible for policing New Zealand's Exclusive Economic Zone, one of the largest in the world. In addition the NPF provides assistance to a range of civilian government agencies, including the Department of Conservation, New Zealand Customs and Police, Ministry of Fisheries and others. The NPF currently consists of:

Naval Logistic Support Force

HMNZS Endeavour is the fleet tanker. She provides fuel and other supplies for the frigates when they are on international operations, and for allied ships should this be required. Endeavour takes her name from the Royal Navy ship that carried James Cook to New Zealand on his first voyage, in 1769. Her home port is the city of New Plymouth.

HMNZS Canterbury, the RNZN's new Multi-Role Vessel entered service in June 2007.[14]

Naval Diving Support

The Littoral Warfare Support Group consists of the Mine Counter Measures Team, Maritime Survey Team and the Operational Diving Team. The Operational Dive Team (ODT), is trained for deep sea diving, underwater demolition and explosives disposal. The group is supported by the Hydrographic Force and Diving Support Vessel. In addition the Group operate four REMUS 100 Autonomous underwater vehicles.

Dive support capability is provided by HMNZS Manawanui. Manawanui is a highly specialised Dive Support Vessel.[15]


The RNZN operates five Kaman SH-2G Seasprite helicopters for use on the two frigates, and for future use on the new multi-role vessel and two offshore patrol craft that will be incorporated into the fleet in 2007 and 2008. These five aircraft are part of No. 6 Squadron of the RNZAF. The squadron is based at Whenuapai in Auckland, and helicopters are assigned to the ships as they are sent on deployments across the globe. The roles of the helicopters include:

  • surface warfare missions and surveillance operations
  • under water warfare
  • helicopter delivery services/logistics
  • search and rescue
  • medical evacuation
  • training
  • assistance to other Government agencies[16]

Future fleet

Two of the fleet's newest vessels, the frigate Te Kaha and the multi-role vessel Canterbury.

The New Zealand Government defence white paper released in November 2010 called for an upgrade of the ANZAC frigates and the replacement of HMNZS Endeavour with a more capable ship. HMNZS Resolution and Manawanui are to be replaced with a single ship.[17]

During these upgrades the navy suffered from a shortage of skilled staff and lacked the crew to operate an offshore patrol vessel. This is expected to improve as the NZDF's resources are directed to the South Pacific following the end of its commitments to Afghanistan, East Timor and the Solomon Islands. A modest Joint Force Amphibious Capability is planned to be operational in 2015.[18]



In its Statement of Intent, the NZDF states its primary mission as:

"to secure New Zealand from external threat, to protect our sovereign interests, including in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and to be able to take action to meet likely contingencies in our strategic area of interest."[19]

The intermediate outcomes of the NZDF are listed as:

  1. Secure New Zealand, including its people, land, territorial waters, exclusive economic zone, natural resources and critical infrastructure.
  2. Reduced risks to New Zealand from regional and global insecurity.
  3. New Zealand values and interests advanced through participation in regional and international security systems.
  4. New Zealand is able to meet future national security challenges.[20]

The role of the navy is to fulfil the maritime elements of the missions of the NZDF.

International participation

The RNZN has a role to help prevent any unrest occurring in New Zealand. This can be done by having a presence in overseas waters and assisting redevelopment in troubled countries. For example, any unrest in the Pacific Islands has the potential to affect New Zealand because of the large Pacific Island population. The stability of the South Pacific is considered in the interest of New Zealand. The navy has participated in peace-keeping and peace-making in East Timor, Bougainville and the Solomon Islands, supporting land based operations.

Civilian roles

The 2002 Maritime Forces Review identified a number of roles that other government agencies required the RNZN to undertake. Approximately 1,400 days at sea are required to fulfil these roles annually. Roles include patrolling the Exclusive Economic Zone, transport to offshore islands, and support for the New Zealand Customs Service.

The RNZN formerly produced hydrographic information for Land Information New Zealand under a commercial contract arrangement, however with the decommissioning of the dedidcated Hydrographic survey ship HMNZS Resolution this has lapsed and the Navy now focuses on military hydrography.

Current deployments

Since 2001, both ANZAC frigates have participated in the United States' Operation Enduring Freedom in the Persian Gulf and have conducted maritime patrol operations in support of American and allied efforts in Afghanistan.

On 21 June 2006 Te Mana was in South East Asia, and Te Kaha was in New Zealand waters, to be deployed to South East Asia in the second half of 2006.


A boarding team from HMNZS Te Mana during the ship's deployment to the Gulf of Oman in 2004

On 1 July 2007 the RNZN had a total of 2,034 Regular Force personnel, 237 Naval Reserve personnel and 378 civilian employees, totalling 2,699.[21] Around 1800 of that total are based at the Devonport Naval base in Auckland.[22]

On 1 January 2011 the RNZN consisted of 2,135 Regular Force personnel, 332 Naval Reserve personnel and 375 civilian staff.[23]


Fleet Reserve

All regular force personnel on discharge from the RNZN are liable for service in the Royal New Zealand Navy Fleet Reserve. The Fleet reserve has an active and inactive list. RNZNVR personnel can choose to serve four years in the fleet reserve on discharge. The RNZN has not published Fleet Reserve numbers since the early 1990s.

Volunteer Reserve

The primary reserve component of the RNZN is the Royal New Zealand Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNZNVR), which is organised into four units based in Auckland (with a satellite unit at Tauranga), Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin:

  • HMNZS Ngapona: Naval Reserve, Auckland[24]
  • HMNZS Olphert: Naval Reserve, Wellington[25]
  • HMNZS Pegasus: Naval Reserve, Christchurch[26]
  • HMNZS Toroa: Naval Reserve, Dunedin[27]

At present civilians can join the RNZNVR in one of three branches: Administration, Sea Service (for service on IPVs), and Maritime Trade Organisation (formerly Naval Control of Shipping). In addition ex regular force personnel can now join the RNZNVR in their former branch, and depending on time out of the service, rank. The requirement to attend compulsory training one night a week has recently been removed.


Naval Ratings begin a 12-week basic training course (Basic Common Training) prior to commencing their branch training which focuses on their chosen trade.

Naval Officers complete 22 weeks of training in three phases before commencing specialist training.


Routine funding

The RNZN is funded through a "vote" of the Parliament of New Zealand. The New Zealand Defence Force funds personnel, operating and finance costs. Funding is then allocated to specific "Output Classes", which are aligned to policy objectives.

Funding allocation in each Output Class includes consumables, personnel, depreciation and a 'Capital Charge'. The Capital Charge is a budgetary mechanism to reflect the cost of Crown capital and was set at 7.5% for the 2009/2010 year.[28]

Large projects

The Ministry of Defence (New Zealand) is responsible for the acquisition of significant items of military equipment needed to meet New Zealand Defence Force capability requirements. Funding for the Ministry of Defence is appropriated separately.

Onshore establishments

The Navy Museum

The Navy Museum of the Royal New Zealand Navy is located at 64 King Edward Parade, Devonport, Auckland, New Zealand [29][30] and contains important collections of naval artefacts, and extensive records.

Naval Communications Facility Irirangi

HMNZS Irirangi was a Naval Communication Station at Waiouru

Uniforms and insignia

Uniforms of the RNZN are very similar to those of the British Royal Navy and other Commonwealth of Nations navies. However, RNZN personnel wear the nationality marker "NEW ZEALAND" on a curved shoulder flash on the service uniform and embroidered on shoulder slip-ons. Also, the RNZN uses the rank of Ensign as its lowest commissioned rank.

See also


  1. Much of this discussion is taken from "RNZN History". RNZN Official Website. Accessed 15 April 2006.
  2. Korean Scholarships - Navy Today, Defence Public Relations Unit, Issue 133, 8 June, Page 14-15
  3. Coalition Air Warfare in the Korean War, 1950-1953: Proceedings, Air Force Historical Foundation Symposium, Andrews AFB, Maryland, May 7–8, 2002, 142 onwards
  4. [1][dead link]
  5. J O'C Ross, 'The White Ensign in New Zealand,' AH & AW Reed, 1967, p. 115
  6. East – New Chief Of Naval Staff Announced. Retrieved on 2011-11-22.
  8. EX RNZN Navy Club - HMNZS Canterbury 1981/82 Commission
  9. "RNZN – HMNZS Resolution". RNZN Official Website. Accessed 17 April 2006.[dead link]
  11. "RNZN – Overview of Ships". RNZN Official website. Accessed 27 August 2012.
  12. "RNZN – Te Kaha". RNZN Official Website. Accessed 27 August 2012.
  13. "RNZN – Te Mana". RNZN Official Website. Accessed 27 August 2012.
  14. "RNZN – Endeavour". RNZN Official Website. Accessed 27 August 2012.
  15. "RNZN – Manawanui". RNZN Official Website. Accessed 27 August 2012.
  16. "No. 6 Squadron". RNZAF Official Website. Accessed 3 January 2011.
  17. Defence White Paper 2010 Ministry of Defense, New Zealand Government. ISBN 978-0-478-27831-6.
  18. Lee-Frampton, Nick (23 September 2013). "Annual Report Shows Light at End of the Tunnel for NZDF". Gannett Government Media. Retrieved 23 September 2013. 
  19. "NZDF Statement of Intent". NZDF Official Website. Accessed 28 April 2006.
  20. "NZDF Outcomes and Objectives". NZDF Official Website. Accessed 28 April 2006.
  21. NZDF Annual Report 2006-2007, Page 40. Accessed 2008-03-10.
  22. Ibid., Page 22.
  23. Personnel Summary. NZDF. Retrieved on 2011-11-22.
  24. HMNZS Ngapona.
  25. HMNZS Olphert.
  26. HMNZS Pegasus.
  27. HMNZS Toroa.
  28. Capital Charge – Treasury Guidance — The Treasury – New Zealand. (2009-12-16). Retrieved on 2011-11-22.
  29. "Navy Museum" (in English (New Zealand)). Visit Us. Royal New Zealand Navy. Retrieved 19 January 2012. 
  30. "Map: Naval Museum at Torpedo Bay". Google Maps.,0,543075775146202570&ei=ncYXT_vvA-aviQLchIijCA&sa=X&oi=local_result&ct=image&ved=0CBEQ_BI. Retrieved 19 January 2012. 

Further reading

  • Rear-Admiral Jack Welch, "New Zealand's navy seeks 'credible minimum'", International Defence Review 9/1995, Vol. 28, No. 9, pages 75–77.

External links

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).