The Te Arawa Sword of Gallantry for the late Haane Manahi has been passed on to the new Chief of Defence Force in a ceremony at Te Papaiouru Marae.

In a moving pohiri on Friday, Chief of Defence Force Air Marshal Kevin Short was entrusted with the care of the sword for the duration of his time in the role.

The sword was a gift the Duke of York, Prince Andrew, made on behalf of the Queen in 2007.

Rotorua District councillor and cultural ambassador Trevor Maxwell said it was a beautiful ceremony.

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"It was just wonderful to see it handed over and to hear all the speeches."

He said a lot of Te Arawa people who served in the forces participated in the ceremony.

Chief of Defence Force Air Marshal Kevin Short arrives at Te Papaiouru Marae for the King George VI sword handover. Photo/Stephen Parker
Chief of Defence Force Air Marshal Kevin Short arrives at Te Papaiouru Marae for the King George VI sword handover. Photo/Stephen Parker

"A very important thing, of course, is the Manahi family were also present.

"The sword was placed into their hands to gift over and they were very moved, I could see their happiness in honouring their father, grandfather, uncle."

He said it was a wonderful event for the young people to be part of.

Short will have the sword until his role as Chief of Defence Force is over when it will be temporarily returned to Te Arawa.

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"I had a warm welcome on to Te Papaiouru marae by the youth and elders of Te Arawa," he said.

Chief of Defence Force Air Marshal Kevin Short pays his respects at Ohinemutu's Muruika War Cemetery. Photo/Stephen Parker
Chief of Defence Force Air Marshal Kevin Short pays his respects at Ohinemutu's Muruika War Cemetery. Photo/Stephen Parker

"This ceremony keeps the stories and legacy of Lance Sergeant Haane Manahi alive and renews the longstanding links between Te Arawa, the Crown and the New Zealand Defence Force."

He said for him, in the 75th anniversary of Lance Sergeant Manahi's heroic action in Tunisia, the ceremony was deeply humbling.

"The sword, which is displayed in my office, is a potent symbol of courage, commitment and comradeship that remain the values of the New Zealand Defence Force today."

In 1943 Manahi, a member of the 28th Maori Battalion's B Company was recommended for a Victoria Cross by four Allied generals for his bravery during the battle of Takrouna Ridge in Tunisia, North Africa.

Students from schools across Rotorua welcome Chief of Defence Force Air Marshal Kevin Short at his pohiri. Photo/Stephen Parker
Students from schools across Rotorua welcome Chief of Defence Force Air Marshal Kevin Short at his pohiri. Photo/Stephen Parker

However, the award was later mysteriously downgraded to a Distinguished Conduct Medal.

In 2006 it was decided that Manahi, who died in a car crash in 1986, would not be awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously despite supporters' lobbying the Government.

In March 2007, the Duke of York, Prince Andrew, presented Manahi's sons with a special citation for bravery, an altar frontal cloth and a letter of tribute from the Queen.

He also presented a sword, belonging to King George VI, to Te Arawa in recognition of his bravery.