Cities celebrate 20th anniversary

EVAN HARDING
Last updated 12:05 06/02/2013
Eirwen Harris
NICOLE GOURLEY/Fairfax NZ
Invercargill City Council communications manager Eirwen Harris, at the Japanese Gardens in Queens Park, is urging city residents to enjoy free public events on February 15, including a rugby match, to mark the 20th anniversary celebrations of the Invercargill-Kumagaya sister-city relationship

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Invercargill ratepayers will fork out nearly $40,000 for the 20th anniversary celebrations this month of Invercargill's sister-city relationship with Kumagaya.

The celebrations will be held in Invercargill from February 14 to 17 and will include two free public events to mark the occasion - a mayoral rugby challenge at Rugby Park and a re-signing of the sister-city agreement ceremony at the Civic Theatre.

A high-powered delegation of 12 Japanese, led by Kumagaya Mayor Kiyoshi Tomioka, will be in Invercargill for the celebrations, as will Japan's ambassador to New Zealand, Yasuaki Nogawa.

Invercargill City Council communications manager Eirwen Harris said the celebrations would cost Invercargill ratepayers $39,000, paid for from the existing sister-city budget.

The celebrations would recognise the commitment and effort many people had made to the sister-city relationship since it began in 1993, she said.

The Invercargill-Kumagaya relationship is the only sister-city relationship in New Zealand that began with business links and evolved to include cultural links - rather than the other way around, Ms Harris said.

The major day of planned events is Friday, February 15, which will include the official ceremony for the re-signing of the sister-city agreement and the Great Mayoral Rugby Challenge at Rugby Park in the evening.

The public was welcome to attend both free events.

Kumagaya is a keen rugby city and commonly referred to as "rugby town".

The rugby match will feature the Mayor of Invercargill's team against the Mayor of Kumagaya's team, with players consisting of current and former Southland Stags players and up-and-comers.

The mayors of Invercargill and Kumagaya would not be playing, Ms Harris said.

"Mayor Tim said the last time he took part in a celebrity rugby match, he lost two teeth."

The Kumagaya delegation will be taken on a chartered fishing trip to Stewart Island the following day and a farewell dinner will be held at Te Rau Aroha Marae in Bluff that evening.

Kumagaya is located 65km northwest of Tokyo, in Japan's northern Saitama Prefecture and has a population of more than 200,000 people.

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