The Royal New Zealand Air Force is planning to establish a ceremonial base at Bay of Islands Airport near Kerikeri for its fleet of eight Seasprite helicopters.

The helicopters operate from the Royal New Zealand Navy vessels Te Kaha, Te Mana, Canterbury, Otago and Wellington and form the RNZAF's No. 6 Squadron, though they are crewed by navy personnel.

In the same way that navy vessels are based at Devonport in Auckland but each has a ceremonial home port somewhere around the country, the commanding officer of No. 6 Squadron, Commander Owen Rodger, proposed that the Seasprites should also have a ceremonial home port. Kerikeri was the obvious choice, he said.

''Not just because its airport is often used by the squadron as a staging point and training location but because of its historic and geographic ties to Waitangi.

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''The RNZN has a long, close and treasured relationship with Waitangi. The proposal was discussed recently with the Mayor of Far North District and the response was favourable. There are still a number of things to be worked through but we hope to be able to announce a formal agreement soon,'' Rodger said.

The helicopters have a top air speed of 150 knots and a range of 450 nautical miles. Photo / File
The helicopters have a top air speed of 150 knots and a range of 450 nautical miles. Photo / File

If the proposal is approved the Seasprites would retain their operational base at Whenuapai, Auckland, and would not necessarily be in Kerikeri any more often.

However, just like ships visiting their home port, when the squadron did land in Kerikeri there would be greater ceremony and officers and crew would take extra pride in their visits.

The proposal was raised by Far North Mayor John Carter at last week's council meeting. While there was no formal vote it was received positively by councillors.

The eight Kaman SH-2G(I) Seasprites are used for surface warfare missions, surveillance and reconnaissance, underwater warfare, search and rescue, medical evacuation, disaster relief, interception and boarding, and ''vertical replenishment'' for the Defence Force and other government agencies.

The helicopters have a top air speed of 150 knots and a range of 450 nautical miles. They can be fitted with homing torpedoes, air-to-ship missiles and a machine gun. They usually fly with a pilot, an observer and a loadmaster.