Chinese sister-city moves surprise

The Invercargill City Council has apparently agreed in principle to establish a sister-city relationship with a Chinese city without telling some of its own city councillors or its ratepayers.

The council already has a long-standing sister-city relationship with Kumagaya in Japan.

It was revealed at a council finance committee meeting yesterday that a memorandum of understanding was signed between Invercargill and Suqian in China earlier this year.

Council chief executive Richard King tabled a report saying the memorandum of understanding was signed on behalf of the council by Cr Carolyn Dean after the council contingent's visit to Suqian in June.

The memorandum, which was attached to the report, says both parties would "visit each other and develop friendship so that the sister-city relationship can be established as soon as possible".

Cr Lindsay Abbott expressed surprise, saying nothing had been ratified by the council. No-one at the meeting argued with him.

He noted that when the council contingent returned from its visit to Suqian there was talk of developing a "friendship" with Suqian, not a sister-city relationship.

Mr King's report to yesterday's meeting also says Mr Shadbolt has been invited to an economic and trade fair in Suqian, population 4.7 million, from September 23 to 25.

"The mayor has requested that I accompany him to Suqian and has also invited representatives from the Southland Chamber of Commerce, Venture Southland and the Southern institute of Technology to be part of the delegation," Mr King's report says.

"Once the political relationship (between the two cities) is firmly in place we would expect Venture Southland and the Chamber of Commerce to take the lead role in developing the trade, education and tourism opportunities."

All city councillors except Cr Abbott voted to adopt Mr King's report and put their support behind a council delegation going back to Suqian in China to discuss formalising a sister-city agreement.

Committee chairman Neil Boniface said there were economic advantages to be developed with China and the only way to do that was to first develop a political relationship.

But Cr Abbott said he disagreed; he believed a feasibility study should be done before a political relationship was formed.

The Southland Times