Powhiri for Manawanui
The HMNZS Manawanui commanded attention as crew were welcomed for the first time at her home port of Gisborne yesterday.
Mayor Rehette Stoltz, district councillors and Gisborne District Council staff were joined by tangata whenua and other members of the community to welcome the dive and hydrographic vessel at Eastland Port.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern dedicated Gisborne as the home port for the ship in 2018 when it was purchased.
Sir Derek Lardelli spoke as whai korero, welcoming the ship and her crew “home as part of Turanga/Gisborne”.
Manawanui Commanding Officer Lieutenant Commander Andrew Mahoney said the ship was the fourth to carry the name Manawanui.
She is the third to share Gisborne as a home port.
Tangata whenua had previously visited the vessel at the commissioning when a mauri kohatu (stone) was gifted in June 2019.
Lieutenant Commander Mahoney carried a toki (adze) he said was gifted to the Manawanui at the time.
“The key material is the stone. The stone was used for the cenotaph of the 28th Maori Battallon.
“Part of the stone used for the toki lays in the heart of the ship.”
The taonga had served them well on their missions, including an operation taking stores to the Kingdom of Tonga, he said.
“I firmly believe that we have lived up to the motto of the Royal New Zealand Navy and have kept busy since the commission in June last year,” said Lieutenant Commander Mahoney.
“The key to our success is the cultural importance that exists deep in the heart of the taonga that stays with us. It feels good to bring the taonga back home to Gisborne.”
Watching from the shore was former seaman Ray Mihaka, who served in the the Navy aboard previous hydrographic vessels.
Mr Mihaka spent a number of years in the Navy during the 1970s and 80s. He was a radarman, air controller and finally a master-at-arms (or naval police officer).
“I just wanted to come and see the ship up close.
“It could be twice the size of the ships that I served on,” he said.
He served aboard one of the previous three vessels named Manawanui.
Mr Mihaka left the Navy in 1991, just as tensions were boiling over in the Middle East, he said.
His days in the navy took him around the world to various countries — through Asia, Africa, Canada and the United States and the Pacific, and even to Moscow.
He had a few close calls during his service but managed to avoid engaging in any conflict.
“The closest we got was during the nuclear testing at Mururoa Atoll back in 1973.”
A charter parade and civic reception, which Prime Minister Ardern attended, was held this morning,
Members of the public have the opportunity to get up close to the ship at an open day tomorrow from 9am to 1pm.