Initial exercises and operations
After commissioning, the ship sailed to its home port of Lyttelton arriving 28 June 2007. After several days of inaugural events, it departed again on 2 July. Following a courtesy visit to Timaru and after a month-long set of trials and exercises in the Auckland area, where she is operationally based at Devonport Naval Base, she is to head to New Zealand's subantarctic waters carrying DOC conservation officers. In September 2007, Canterbury embarked 250 troops and 50 vehicles, including 20 NZLAV armoured vehicles, to test embarkation and disembarkation procedures.
AU-NZ disaster relief response force
In early 2011, it was announced that the ship would form the core asset of a joint Australia-New Zealand task force for disaster-relief operations. At that time Canterbury was the only vessel available to the navies of the two countries suitable for such tasks as three other similarly capable Australian ships were unavailable due to significant maintenance problems.
Coincidentally, the newly appointed disaster-relief ship was in the port of Lyttelton less than two weeks later during the devastating February 2011 Christchurch earthquake. The crew provided meals for 1,000 people left homeless in that town, and accommodation for a small number of locals.
2012 Kermadec Islands eruption and pumice raft
HMNZS Canterbury was the first ship to take scientific samples from a 7,500–10,000 square mile pumice raft that was discovered in the Kermadec islands.