NEW Zealanders will be welcoming a Royal Navy warship into port for the first time in 20 years.
Type 23 frigate HMS Montrose will be sailing into Devonport Naval Base on the north shore of Auckland tomorrow.
Montrose – which currently calls Her Majesty’s Naval Base Devonport, in Plymouth, her home – is among the frigates set to move to Portsmouth in a major shake-up by the navy.
But before this, mighty Montrose will be completing her mammoth three-year deployment, which will see her becoming the first forward-deployed British frigate in the Gulf.
On her journey to New Zealand, Montrose joined the international fight against plastic littering the oceans by recording pollution on four Pacific islands.
The ship's company and its Wildcat helicopter spent two days surveying remote islands – including Pitcairn - where reconnaissance images of debris were captured and will be used by conservationists who are taking part in a massive clean-up of plastics later this year.
This visit to New Zealand will include a Pōwhiri welcome onto Te Taua Moana o Aotearoa Marae and a sports day on Wednesday between the Royal Navy and the New Zealand Royal Navy.
Speaking ahead of the visit, British High Commissioner Laura Clarke said: ‘We are delighted to have HMS Montrose visit Auckland early in her mammoth three-year deployment.
‘As the first Royal Navy warship to visit Auckland since 2003, this is an opportunity for HMS Montrose to demonstrate the global reach of the Royal Navy as well as the UK’s commitment to maintaining stability in the Asia Pacific region with close allies such as New Zealand.
‘As we continue to enjoy the New Zealand summer, I am acutely aware of the sacrifices that the ship’s company have made by being away from their families over the festive period.
‘We know New Zealand will be a much-welcomed stop for them and that Kiwis will greet them with their usual warm hospitality.’
Montrose is expected to remain in New Zealand until Sunday.
She will be among a host of new vessels set to arrive in Portsmouth as part of the navy’s five-year planned shake-up of where ships are based.
Joining her on the move across to the city will be HMS Argyll and HMS Monmouth.
HMS Iron Duke and HMS Lancaster will be the only Type 23 frigates currently based in Portsmouth to remain come 2023.