One of the bigger players in a major military exercise centred around the South Island is set to make an appearance in Hawke's Bay on Wednesday for a two-day visit.

It is the 16,900-tonne HMAS Choules, a Bay Class landing and logistics ship which has been in service with the Australian Navy since 2011 and is an integral part of Exercise Southern Katipo which is New Zealand's largest military exercise staged every two years in varying parts of the country.

This year's exercise, which is set to kick off later this week and will run through to mid-November, is based around the Marlborough, Tasman, Kaikoura, Nelson and Buller regions.

The Royal New Zealand Navy and Air Force will be joined by their Australian counterparts, and soldiers from Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Tonga will be taking part, along with contingents from Canada, US, France and Great Britain .


"It's great that it is coming here for a couple of days," Hawke's Bay Regional Naval Officer Lieutenant Commander Neville Smith said.

"It will be the largest navy ship to arrive in Napier."

The 177-metre long ship is stopping by to give its crew of around 170 officers, senior NCOs and other ratings, as well as troops, a spot of rest and relaxation before the intensive exercise.

"They will have the chance to have a quick look around Napier."

HMAS Choules is scheduled to tie up at 7am on Wednesday and depart at 10am on Friday.
It will not be open to the public.

Mr Smith said there had always been a long and strong connection between Hawke's Bay and the navies of both countries, and felt it was a privilege to get such an integral part of the Australian navy's logistical support fleet to call in.

He believed it was the friendly links forged in the past which saw the Australian Defence Force decide to steer it toward Napier before taking part in Exercise Southern Katipo.

Mr Smith also pondered if the Australian Defence Attache, who was a guest here for the Tremains Art Deco Festival, may have also put in a good word for the city.


Exercise Southern Katipo is based around a scenario of a troubled region called Becara which is suffering political instability and unrest.

The South Island spots will make up the land of Becara with New Zealand called in to assemble and lead an intervention force comprising a coalition of Pacific Island Forum member states.

For the crew of HMAS Choules the exercise comes on the tail of a real emergency callout, with the ship called in to assist with humanitarian needs in Vanuatu late last month when residents had to evacuate under the risk of a volcanic eruption.