A visit by a navy ship to Napier next month will be a homecoming for new commander Martin Walker.

A young immigrant to Hawke's Bay from the UK, he grew up in the region and attended Napier Boys' High School from 1983 to 1987, making him a contemporary of prefect, First XV rugby player and 1993-1995 All Black halfback Stu Forster.

He took command of HMNZS Canterbury in late April and will visit Port Napier twice during exercises, from June 6-10 for the navy's Hiki Ano concentrated sailors and officers training exercise and from June 27 to July 1 to collect personnel and equipment for Exercise Talisman Sabre in Australia.

While the RNZN's frigates are being upgraded, HMNZS Canterbury is its primary sea-training platform.


Current NBHS prefects will visit HMNZS Canterbury soon after its arrival and there will be a powhiri at the school the next day for Commander Walker, who told navy media services: "I spent my formative years in Hawke's Bay and have great memories of Napier."

After secondary school and a year studying geography at Massey University, he decided to join the Royal New Zealand Navy.

"It sounds a bit of a cliche, but I enjoyed travelling and seeing new places, and I wanted a career that provided variety and excitement," he said. "I decided the navy was a good way to achieve that."

He said it was fantastic to be back at sea after 15 years based in Wellington in various New Zealand Defence Force positions at Joint Headquarters and in Capability Branch.

While Commander Walker has previously commanded inshore patrol vessels such as HMNZS Kahu, now decommissioned, the HMNZS Canterbury is on a different scale. The RNZN support ship is a 9000-tonne, 131m multi-role vessel with the ability to transport personnel, vehicles, and supplies around New Zealand and overseas.

Highlights from Commander Walker's previous deployments include two postings as Ship's Executive Officer, on HMNZS Manawanui and HMNZS Endeavour. A five-month deployment to Asia on HMNZS Endeavour included port visits in Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea, and Australia, while he also visited Singapore with HMNZS Manawanui while taking part in exercises there.