Sister cities criticism a 'smack in the face'
Criticism of Christchurch's sister-city links is a "smack in the face", say the volunteers who have forged links with their overseas partners.
The Christchurch City Council's relationship with its six sister cities has come under scrutiny after a backlash against a proposal for a ratepayer-funded overseas trip for Mayor Bob Parker and his wife.
Each of the sister-city relationships is co-ordinated in Christchurch by a committee made up of volunteers. David Bolam-Smith, deputy chairman of the Christchurch Kurashiki sister cty committee, said critics needed to consider the cultural benefits that Christchurch got from its relationships, rather than focusing on the economic opportunities.
"The opportunities that present themselves from a sister-city relationship do open doors [for businesses], but that's not what sister cities are about – they're about people."
He said many young people from the Japanese city had visited Christchurch to study and would feel an affinity with the city in the future.
"There's an immediate link because these people have been here for a week or several weeks when they were young, and they grow up to be important people in the community."
In a 2008 report, the committee estimated that Christchurch's relationship with Kurashiki had generated $4.3 million for the city in a 10-year period, primarily from delegations visiting the city.
The volunteers who helped to maintain links with the sister cities had become "innocent victims" of the backlash against the trip, Bolam-Smith said.
"The embassies put the policy in place, but we're the unofficial ambassadors who spread goodwill and those sorts of things in the cities. To say we haven't done anything is a bit of a smack in the face."
Bolam-Smith believed Parker needed to visit the sister cities to mark special occasions.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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