Closer NZ bonds top priority in sister city

19:55, Jun 24 2012

A South Taranaki delegation to Harbin sat with leaders of the Communist Party and negotiated with heavyweights of the agriculture industry on a whirlwind, week-long tour.

Mayor Ross Dunlop was joined by councillors Andy Beccard and Ian Armstrong, along with South Taranaki District Council staff Gerard Langford, Fiona Greenhill and Parininihi ki Waitotara chairman Hinerangi Edwards for the tour to the 5 million-strong Chinese city to open a rent-free South Taranaki office.

The mayor and the councillors were joined by their wives. Mr Langford and Ms Greenhill flew back to New Zealand last week while the mayor and councillors went to other international points at their own expense.

Ms Greenhill said the municipal government of Hawera's sister city Harbin was overwhelmingly generous. "New Zealand has an amazingly good reputation in China. We were told by the director of the Harbin Foreign Affairs Office that developing a close relationship with New Zealand was a top priority."

At the Harbin International Fair for Trade and Economic Co- operation, Mr Dunlop and wife Jan sat at the head of the table with Harbin's mayor and the regional Communist Party president.

"This was a major honour, particularly considering the number of other foreign dignitaries at the reception," Mr Langford said.

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The main part of the trip was opening the office, as the district council entered into a partnership with South Taranaki company JCNZ Focus, which will operate and staff it.

"The office will be a conduit for South Taranaki and New Zealand businesses to develop trade and tourism opportunities in Harbin and greater China," said Mr Langford.

"For example, a South Taranaki business may want to import or export goods into China. Our political relationship enables our office to put them in touch with the right government and business people."

At another reception an agreement between JCNZ and the Heilongjiang International Commercial Travel Agency was signed, which will actively promote New Zealand and South Taranaki tourism in Harbin.

Mr Dunlop also led discussions with the directors of the Harbin Agricultural Commission and the Livestock Bureau, discussing trade areas like beef and lamb imports, agricultural training, technology and quality breeding programmes.

Officials in both districts will now draw up a programme of specific trade and cultural activities which they can work towards co-operatively, Mr Langford said.

Taranaki Daily News