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Newest sponsor enjoys special links with city

The Royal New Zealand Navy’s newest vessel, which has Gisborne for a home port, will be commissioned by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who also has special connections to the city.

When RNZN’s new diving support and hydrographic survey vessel is formally commissioned early next month, it will be Ms Ardern who will be announcing, “I name this ship Manawanui”.

A bottle of wine will be broken over the bow and the baptism of the latest addition to the Royal New Zealand Navy’s fleet will be complete, continuing the centuries-old tradition of sponsorship of navy ships.

Chief of Navy Rear Admiral David Proctor was delighted Ms Ardern had accepted the invitation of his predecessor, Rear Admiral John Martin, to sponsor the ship, which has Gisborne as its home port.

“When the ship was purchased last year, RNZN senior leadership didn’t have to look too far to find the person best suited to act as sponsor,” Rear Admiral Proctor said.

“We’ve had some remarkable New Zealanders sponsor our ships over the years and I’m proud that the Prime Minister has done us this honour with Manawanui.”

Ms Ardern said she looked forward to carrying out her official duties at the commissioning of the ship at the Devonport Naval Base and for the chance to meet the ship’s company.

“For me this is not just a naming ceremony and wetting the bow of the ship, as is tradition,” she said.

“My responsibility as the sponsor of the ship will cover the 15 years Manawanui will dedicate in the service to New Zealand, and I take that role very seriously.

“Manawanui means ‘big heart’ and ‘steadfast’ in Maori and I know this ship will live up to both meanings as she deploys on diving, search and rescue, and survey operations and exercises to aid in advancing New Zealand’s interests from the sea.”

The vessel’s home port of Gisborne has a special family link for Ms Ardern, because her fiance Clarke Gayford is from here. They recently announced their engagement with the news the groom-to-be popped the question at Mahia, where his family has a holiday home.

IN THE NAVY: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has accepted an invitation to sponsor the Royal New Zealand Navy’s new diving support and hydrographic survey vessel Manawanui. Picture by Sgt Sam Shepherd