The HMNZS Te Mana charter parade starts in Tauranga at 10.30am today. More than 100 sailors will march from Tauranga's Waterfront, up Wharf St and form up outside council offices on Willow Street.

The HMNZS Te Mana has returned to its adopted home port Tauranga to re-establish and strengthen its ties to the city.

Commanding Officer Simon Griffiths said the Anzac-class frigate had a 17-year relationship with Tauranga, its ceremonial home port.

The ship was commissioned in a ceremony at Mount Maunganui Wharf on December 10, 1999. It carried a crew of 150 - 25 of which were women.

On board today are six Tauranga locals - Ordinary Combat System Specialist Julian Young, Able Writer Jessica Stanaway, Midshipman Matthew Barnett, Able Electronic Technician Aydan Edlin, Sub-lieutenant Mark Littleton and Able Eletronic Technician Liam Godfrey.


Mr Griffiths said the ship's bond with Tauranga was expressed through a ceremonial charter which linked the ship to the city.

"Part of that charter is the opportunity to exercise the freedom of the city. We plan to exercise that through a ceremonial parade [this morning]."

It had been about 10 years since the last time this had happened.

How often these occasions happened depended on what the ships and their crews were doing, although more of these visits were happening this year throughout the country as it ws the Royal New Zealand Navy's 75th birthday.

Mr Griffiths said about 80 per cent of the time, the frigate was out of New Zealand waters and out of sight of the public.

"Our role is to support New Zealand's strategic importance at sea whenever and wherever that is required. Most of our time is spent away from New Zealand.

"One of the reasons the Te Mana hasn't been to Tauranga in just over two years is it has just completed a mid-life upgrade of its platform management systems.

"This is the first opportunity in over two years that we've had the chance to come back and re-establish and strengthen our ties with Tauranga City."
Mr Griffiths said a key part of the visit was also strengthening the ship's bonds with its charity IDEA Services Tauranga and its adopted school Te Puke Intermediate.

School children visited the ship yesterday and also hosted 12 crew members at their school.

The ship also hosted an official function on Thursday night with Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby, Western Bay Mayor Ross Paterson and representatives of associations with links to the ship.

The Te Mana has done a lot in its 17 years - it has been all over Australasia and Asia, and has had three deployments to the Middle East, In the early 2000s, it was involved in key diplomacy and stabilisation operations in the Solomon Islands.

It would be a few years before the ship could return again - it would be heading up to Canada next year for an upgrade of its sensors and weapon systems.

"That combined with the other upgrade we've had will make it one of the most modern frigates in the world again. It will be ready to serve New Zealand wherever it's needed."

The Te Mana's name said it all, Mr Griffiths said.

"It's got a very proud, distinguished service career. The crew on board at the moment are the latest generations of the guardians of the ship and its reputation.

"It's a real pleasure to bring the Te Mana back to Tauranga."