Men dressed in pinstripe jackets and women in fur coats graced HMNZS Wellington last night celebrating the Tremains Art Deco Festival.

Champagne bottles popped as patrons gathered to raise money for Kaikoura High School while celebrating the historic navy ties.

HMNZS Lieutenant Commander Matt Kaio said his ship had created an intimate connection with Kaikoura since the earthquake just as the navy did with Napier in 1931.

"We were the first ship into Kaikoura so it is important for us to show our support and what better place to do it than in Napier during Art Deco."

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He said it was also important to renew the links with Napier each year.

"The navy have a special connection and we love to come back to Hawke's Bay."

Both crews from HMNZS Wellington and Taupo had been on stand-by to help with the fires but were stood down last night.

Regional naval officer Lieutenant Commander Neville Smith said this highlighted the important connection the navy has with the region.

"Just like back in 1931 they were here again to assist with civil authorities."

About $20,000 was raised last night, with funds going to Kaikoura High School education grants.

One of the keen Deco-goers was Sandra Marsh.

"I have very strong ties to the navy so being able to come on board and dress up is amazing, plus everything is more fun dressed up."

Awhina Hunghunga was dressed from head to toe in her grandmother's clothes, wearing her pearls and a fur coat.

"I have always wanted to dress up and be involved."

Over in Hastings another group was dancing at the Black Tie Ball.

A group of friends from Auckland came down for a girls' weekend and were blown away by the jazzy atmosphere.

Sharyn Mumby described the evening as brilliant and beautiful while Lilian Simnor said she enjoyed the outfits.

"We have a few events to go to so we are going to give it heaps, it is all very exciting," Ms Mumby said.

The festival opens with the powhiri, the official Maori opening at Napier's Inner Harbour, today at 8am.

People are encouraged to join the local iwi, the Art Deco Trust, Napier City Council and the Te Matau a Maui Voyaging Trust to welcome this year's festival.

The powhiri will feature Te Matau a Maui, a traditionally designed Polynesian sailing waka, being welcomed in to the marina by local Kaumatua and kapa haka groups.