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Sister Cities Convention - Anderton Speech

Hon Jim Anderton Speech Notes

Sister Cities Convention – Building Bridges

Wednesday, 16 May 2001
9.30 am
Sister Cities Convention
Plymouth International Hotel
New Plymouth.

The Mayor, New Zealand ambassador to Japan, distinguished guests, delegates, ladies and gentlemen.

I am pleased to have been invited to open this sister cities conference.

I'd like to begin by paying tribute to the organisers of this Conference and also to all of you that have taken the time and effort to be here.

You have over 250 delegates at this conference – the largest sister cities conference ever held in New Zealand I understand.

Many of you have travelled a long way to be here.

I am told that 85 delegates have come here from sister cities in Japan, including a large contingent from Mishima City which is the sister city of New Plymouth.

It is pleasing to see so many senior city officials from Mishima and other cities. I know you are busy people and your attendance here clearly shows the value you place on close relationships with cities in New Zealand.

I know from my visits to Japan and meeting many Japanese people that you are vitally interested in New Zealand and, for that matter, the rest of the world.

I have enjoyed visits to your beautiful country and I was received very warmly.

There are also representatives here from other sister cities around the world and delegates from across New Zealand.

I know that the people of New Plymouth will be doing their best to make you feel welcome.

To all of you here today, on behalf of the Government of New Zealand welcome to the best small country in the world.

I wish you a productive and enjoyable conference and a pleasant stay in this beautiful town.

Strong friendships with people from other lands strengthen our global community. The theme for this conference, Building Bridges is therefore very appropriate.

I often see and hear commentary on global networks and contacts.

A current theme is that the world is being brought together through the internet and other increasingly sophisticated communication channels.

In this Labour Alliance Coalition Government I am Minister for Economic, Industry and Regional Development. As part of my regional development work I am committed to ensuring that communities have access to computer technology. I will be making some announcements relevant to technology development as part of the Budget next week.

However, I notice from my tours and my work that building bonds with other people and communities is not about how many computers you have or how fast the modems are. These things help, but there must be real human relationships for there to be effective communication.

Building bridges between communities is about forming relationships and growing mutual understanding.

And with all relationships you need to invest time and energy.

I think you have all come here for this convention because you recognise this.

Face to face meeting with people and sharing experiences is going to build relationships faster than sending reports or even emails.

When Dwight D Eisenhower launched the concept of sister cities in 1956 he said:

"The purpose of the sister cities programme is to increase international understanding and foster world peace by furthering international communication and exchange at the person-to-person level through city-to-city affiliations. "

He talked of international communication and exchange.

It's a simple idea. People that know and understand each other can build stronger international communities.

We already know in New Zealand that this works. The Colombo Plan was formed in 1950 and involved Commonwealth countries in the Pacific and Asia.
As part of this plan New Zealand had a number of university places set aside for young people from other nations.

Over the years the countries we provided places for have developed economically and we now trade extensively with them. The Colombo Plan scholars that came to New Zealand years ago know us and our way of life. Many of them are politicians, business leaders, scientists and community leaders.

New Zealanders who studied with them have in many cases kept in contact. This has resulted in strong and productive cultural and economic relationships.

Although sister cities started as people-to-people relationships, they have evolved and now include trade, tourism, educational betterment and exchanges, cultural understanding, the arts and sports, research and technology.

New Zealand towns and cities collectively have 140 sister cities in 14 different countries.

Some are highly active.

Christchurch, the city that I help represent in Parliament, has six active sister city committees. There is an extensive sister city garden being developed at the site of a vast old quarry a development which will provide a spectacular meeting place for sister city visitors to Christchurch.

Children in Christchurch New Zealand are pen pals with children from Kurashiki, Japan, and other cities in the United States, England, Korea, China and Australia.

We have vast cultural exchanges, festivals and in the last few years a large number of trade missions.

These contacts and links make Christchurch a stronger more interesting city.

I understand the strongest relationships for New Zealand sister cities tend to be with Japanese cities.

Japan is a country with which we have strong connections, and I know the relationships built between the people of our cities are valuable.

I am pleased to see that this convention is to look at how to use the example of our sister city relationships with Japanese cities to make our links with cities in other countries stronger.

As Deputy Prime Minister and a proud New Zealander I want the best for this country.

The sort of country I want is one where every New Zealander has the opportunity to develop their talents to the full.

I want to see a New Zealand where we are relaxed with and learn from the people of other countries.
Sister city relationships can build New Zealand and make our country stronger as well as enriching the nations with which we are linked.

In all relationships the different partners bring their strengths. This is true of couples, business partners, coalition governments and sister cities.

New Zealanders are known for their innovation and originality. People from Japan and other nations represented here today bring their strengths from which we will learn a great deal. We hope you benefit from what we have to offer as well.

I am pleased to be here today. I am proud to be associated with sister cities and the links and co-operation they stand for.

I am also pleased to open this convention and I wish you well in all our deliberations this week on behalf of your respective cities.

ends

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