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About Your Navy

Our role is to contribute to the security of our nation, and the people of New Zealand. The Navy's people and our ships are able to respond to a range of situations and undertake tasks such as combat operations, search and rescue, underwater recovery, trade protection, peacekeeping and humanitarian aid and disaster relief.

New Zealand has an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) which is approximately 15 times the land area of our country and among the largest in the world. We have the ninth longest coastline in the world. Our nearest major trading partner and ally, Australia, is 1,000 miles away. We are a vast distance from most major international markets and 99% of our trade crosses the sea. New Zealand's economic interests rest upon our ability to ensure safe passage at sea and the security of the waters over which we have a sovereign right. Through our geographical isolation and dependence on maritime trade, it is clear that New Zealand is a maritime nation.

The Navy’s readiness to deploy provides the Government with an important tool to respond quickly to emergency situations around New Zealand's 15,000-kilometre coastline, the Southern Ocean and into the Asia-Pacific region.

Although New Zealand has a relatively small land mass, the country has a large maritime area of responsibility, including a significant EEZ, extended continental shelf, and Search and Rescue area. As 96% of New Zealand’s land is underwater, we are very much a large maritime nation. Furthermore, our maritime interests extend far beyond these boundaries, and include assisting our South Pacific neighbours and ensuring safety and security of global trade routes, highlighting the importance of the Navy’s role.

The Royal New Zealand Navy is responsible for the maritime defence of New Zealand and its interests.

HMNZS Wellington P55

The Navy is part of the New Zealand Defence Force and works closely with the Army and the Air Force, as well as other Government and non-government agencies including the Ministry of Primary Industries (fisheries), New Zealand Police and New Zealand Customs.

The New Zealand Defence Force

The New Zealand Defence Force is a professional military force, trained and equipped for combat.  We are ready to respond to protect our nation, its security and interests. Over 14,000 military and civilians make up the New Zealand Defence Force, incorporating our Navy, Army and Air Force. We serve New Zealand, whilst working with our partners to protect New Zealand interests, and the freedoms of those who cannot do it themselves. We help in humanitarian and disaster relief work, here, and across the Pacific region. We work to protect and advance our country’s future, while respecting and honouring the past, and those who served before us. We care for all our people and together we are a force for New Zealand.

Principal roles of the Navy

The principal roles of the Royal New Zealand Navy reflect New Zealand's values, national security interests, its understanding of the strategic environment and the strength of its international relationships.

The principal roles of the Royal New Zealand Navy are to:

  • Defend New Zealand's sovereign territory
  • Contribute to national resilience and whole of government security objectives
  • Meet New Zealand's commitment as an ally of Australia
  • Support New Zealand's civilian presence in the Ross Dependency of Antarctica, and participation in whole of government efforts to monitor and respond to activity in the Southern Ocean
  • Contribute to, and where necessary lead, operations in the South pacific
  • Contribute to, support of peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region
  • Protect New Zealand's wider interests by contributing to international peace and security, and the international rule of law
  • Contribute to the advancement of New Zealand's security partnerships
  • Participate in whole of government efforts to monitor the strategic environment
  • Be prepared to respond to sudden shifts in the strategic environment

Protecting trade routes, preventing piracy and terrorism. New Zealand’s economic prosperity is reliant on a stable political environment and safe maritime trade routes.   Nearly all of our country’s exports (99% by weight) and most of our imports are transported by sea.  Threats to shipping, such as piracy or blockade, have affected our economy in the past and could do so again. 

New Zealand is a valued regional security partner and our Navy works collaboratively with other Navies to protect our region’s valuable maritime trade routes. In recent years Navy ships and people have deployed to the Indian Ocean, Arabian Gulf and Horn of Africa where we contribute to international efforts to protect trade routes and prevent piracy and terrorism. 

Border patrol and resource protection. Navy ships and people protect our countries interests with regular border and fisheries patrols, search and rescue operations, as well as supporting the Police, Civil Defence and the Department of Conservation.  Four Inshore Patrol Vessels work around the New Zealand coast and two Offshore Patrol Vessels do similar work in the Southern Ocean and Pacific.

Humanitarian aid and disaster relief missions. The Navy is ready and capable of responding to natural disasters at home and abroad.  Navy ships and people were among the first responders to the devastating Christchurch earthquake in February 2011.  Navy ships are ready to undertake search and rescue missions and are active in the South Pacific where ships of the Naval Patrol Force regularly undertake fisheries patrols, visit ports and contribute to humanitarian missions such as cyclone relief or transporting supplies to remote islands.

Peacekeeping. Navy personnel take part in peacekeeping operations around the world.  Navy ships and people have been deployed to East Timor (Timor-Leste), Solomon Islands, Sudan, the Middle-East, South Korea and Afghanistan. 

Coastal waters - Littoral Warfare Force. The Littoral Warfare Unit (LWU) operate primarily within the littoral or coastal waters. Comprising divers, hydrographers and a mine counter measures unit. Their role is to ensure access to and the use of harbours, inshore waters and associated coastal zones in New Zealand and wherever the ships and personnel of the NZDF are required to operate.  The LWU maintains a modern, deployable specialist underwater operational and survey capability.  They are capable of military and civilian tasks, including search and recovery, and deploy to incidents within New Zealand and overseas. 


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