The number of naval vessels entering Auckland Harbour this morning is fewer than expected as a fleet of international warships head south instead to help with earthquake recovery.

HMNZS Otago headed out to "meet and greet" international vessels in Auckland Harbour this morning as part of the celebrations for 75th anniversary of the Royal New Zealand Navy.

The USS Sampson was due to enter the harbour today but is now on its way to Kaikoura to provide support in response to Monday's earthquake.

Australia's HMAS Darwin is expected to arrive in Kaikoura this evening.

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The New Zealand Navy has already sent HMNZS Canterbury and HMNZS Wellington to Kaikoura and plans to send HMNZS Te Kaha and the tanker HMNZS Endeavour.