10 February 2020
Pupils from two Northland schools experienced a day in the Bay of Islands on offshore patrol vessel HMNZS Wellington, after winning a Royal New Zealand Navy-sponsored primary school art competition.
Ahoy Waitangi, a Waitangi Day-themed competition, invited Northland year five and year six students to submit artwork on what Waitangi Day means to them.
Students from Whangarei Primary School and Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Pukemiro, in Kaitaia, were judged equal winners, and the classes were invited to Opua to board Wellington for four hours of fun activities in the bay opposite the Waitangi Treaty Grounds.
Once on board and following a safety briefing, each student was presented with a Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) baseball cap and an RNZN-branded drink bottle.
Over the four hours, every student was launched for a fast series of manoeuvres on an RNZN rigid-hulled inflatable boat (RHIB), while others delighted in using the fire hoses to see if they could reach the RHIB as it came close. They also toured the bridge, mess decks and crew quarters, and watched demonstrations of fire-fighting equipment.
RNZN chefs provided a buffet lunch on the flight deck for the children, parents and teachers, with the ship’s crew joining in.
Whangarei Primary School teacher Teresa Battersby, who attended with 24 children, said the experience was amazing.
“I don’t think the kids understood how big this was going to be, but when they got halfway down the hill at Opua they said, ‘Wow, there’s the ship’. They’ve had a ball today.”
One of her pupils, Sophie, 9, said the “speedboat” was the best part.
“We got a bit wet. It was a bit scary but more fun than scary.”
Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Pukemiro teacher Taihera Heka, who attended with 20 children, said the children were over the moon to be invited.
“How often do you get to do something like this?” she said. “It was pretty exciting and more than what we expected. Hopefully one of them in the future will have a think about joining the Navy.”
The third and fourth-placed schools in the competition, Kawakawa School and Ruawai College, enjoyed a visit from an RNZN Seasprite helicopter and crew on Tuesday, 4 February.
From the outset Waitangi Day commemorations have included naval involvement, first with Royal Navy ships and officers and latterly with the RNZN, which paraded at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds for the first time in 1947, after being granted access by the Waitangi National Trust.
In 1990 the RNZN was presented with a Charter recognising the strength of the relationship between the RNZN and the community in the region. The charter allows the RNZN to parade on Te Tai Tokerau land and on Waitangi grounds.