"Halt. Who gives you the right to march through the city with bayonets fixed," Police Senior Sergeant Craig Ellison asked Navy sailors marching on Emerson St on Saturday.

"His Worship the Mayor has granted us the freedom of your city," the Guard Commander replied.

"You may carry on then."

And so 180 Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) sailors continued marching to Clive Square, having been handed a charter by Napier Mayor Bill Dalton, signed by all Hawke's Bay mayors, giving the navy frigate HMNZS Te Kaha special freedoms now it has adopted a home-away-from-home port in Napier.

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The arrival of the frigate on Thursday, with the logistics and support ship HMNZS Endeavour, gives Hawke's Bay one of its largest-ever naval presences.

Royal New Zealand Navy liaison regional officer Lieutenant-Commander Neville Smith said it was a fantastic event.

Up to 3000 people witnessed the charter ceremony at Veronica Bay at the Sound Shell colonnade, where Mr Dalton handed the charter to HMNZS Te Kaha's Lieutenant-Commander Steve Lenik, and then the march down Emerson St to Memorial Square with children waving the Navy ensign.

Lieutenant-Commander Smith said it was an auspicious event, part of the 75th anniversary of the Royal New Zealand Navy and the 100th anniversary of the Napier RSA, one of the first RSAs in New Zealand.

"All these anniversaries plus Anzac week make this a significant commemoration for the RNZN in Hawke's Bay, making this one of the largest attendances of Naval personnel," he said. Another ceremony was held at the Napier RSA.

Chief of Navy Rear Admiral John Martin ONZM formally presented French Legion of Honour medals to Hawke's Bay D-Day veterans Stan Douglas and John Whitehead.