Cities renew the bonds of friendship

Still friends after 20 years

LAUREN HAYES
Last updated 05:00 16/02/2013

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The sister city relationship between Kumagaya and Invercargill was renewed yesterday, 20 years after the bond was established.

During a ceremony to celebrate two decades of the relationship, Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt and Kumagaya Mayor Kiyoshi Tomioka re-signed the agree- ment.

The original sister city agreement was signed in February 1993.

Mr Shadbolt said many citizens of Kumagaya and Invercargill were not born when the original agreement was signed, but had benefited from the efforts of those who had established the relationship.

"Our hair may be a little greyer . . . and in some cases it has disappeared altogether, but that is a positive sign. It is a sign that our sister city relationship has stood the test of time."

Mr Tomioka spoke of the similarities between Invercargill and Kumagaya, such as their shared love of rugby.

Delivering his speech in Japanese, Mr Tomioka promised to speak slowly so high school language pupils in the audience could follow along.

The Japanese group was welcomed to the ceremony with a powhiri, where Kumagaya councillors showed off their Kiwi knowledge by greeting guests with kia ora.

The mayors also exchanged gifts for each other's cities at the ceremony, and school groups with links to Kumagaya performed for the visitors.

Earlier in the day, Wiggles enthusiast Carter Renata, 2, took a break from his favourite band to meet Mr Shadbolt and Mr Tomioka when the mayors visited Southland Hospital.

Carter's mum, Ashleigh McIntosh, said Carter had a rare condition called short bowel syndrome, and had to spend 18 hours a day on a total parenteral nutrition (TPN) drip.

The condition meant his immune system was unreliable and he often ended up in hospital for long stretches of time.

The visit had brightened Carter's day, but all the attention had been a little crazy, Ms McIntosh said.

As part of the visit, the mayors presented children with gifts, including a takahe toy which mimicked the sound of the real bird.

Invercargill City Council communications manager Eirwen Harris said the takahe had been chosen as it was on the council's crest.

The celebrations continued yesterday afternoon with a commemorative tree-planting ceremony, a garden party at Anderson's Park and the Great Mayoral Rugby Challenge at Rugby Park last night.

The match pitted the Mayor of Invercargill's team against the Mayor of Kumagaya's team, both made up of prominent Southland rugby players.

The visit will continue today with a fishing trip to Stewart Island

lauren.hayes@stl.co.nz

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