Invercargill has Sister City agreements with Kumagaya, Japan (signed in 1993) and Suqian City, China (signed in 2013). The 2017 Sister Cities New Zealand Conference is being held in Invercargill (4 May to 6 May). All the conference details are available in this section of the ICC website.
The Sister City agreement with Suqian was signed in November 2013 “to promote people-to-people friendly contacts, and economic and trade interflows” between the two cities. Suqian is in the affluent northern Jiangsu Province and has a population climbing towards 6 million people.
It is one of eastern China’s mega-cities and is well served by modern road, rail and air links. You can reach Shanghai in 6 hours by car or 2.5 hours by high-speed train; Beijing is 11 hours away by car and about 3 hours 40 minutes by high-speed train).
Suqian is famous for its vocational education, flowers and seedlings, seafood (including whitebait, shrimp and crab) and its large reserves of non-metal minerals. The city is also China’s capital of spirits (it is home to the distillery that produces the Yanghe range, the top-selling spirit in the country).
The city is undergoing rapid economic growth and its emerging industries are grouped in six clusters: opto-electronics, new materials, smart grid, high-performance composite material, biotechnology and information technology. It is achieving this growth while also being described by the United Nations as “a new demonstration city for environmental protection and energy conservation”.
The Invercargill-Kumagaya sister city relationship was sparked in 1988 by businessmen keen to form trading links with the city, which has a population of more than 200,000 and which is about 60km from central Tokyo.
There are similarities with Invercargill: it is an agricultural town, with open spaces, mountains in the background and friendly, conservative, rugby-loving people. The businessmen found that for a sister city relationship to be established they needed the endorsement of the Council and in 1991 the then Mayor, the late Eve Poole, visited Kumagaya. The sister city agreement was signed in 1993.
In 2003, 10 years after the official signing, the Mayors of Invercargill and Kumagaya made reciprocal visits to each other’s cities to re-sign the sister city agreement. During the year-long celebrations groups of students, teachers, citizens and Councillors from each city made exchange visits.
Kumagaya has taken its place on the iconic signpost at Stirling Point in the port town of Bluff. Japanese visitors can be forgiven for feeling a little homesick when they check the signpost – and find they are 9632km from home!
The Kumagaya influence on Invercargill can be seen around the : Queens Park has a Japanese Garden which includes a cherry tree donated by the Kumagaya International Friendship Society. The Gala Street Reserve has the Kumagaya City symbol depicted in box hedging and white quartz gravel. The Kumagaya City symbol has also been incorporated into the decor of the Council’s Civic Administration Building in Esk Street. Two “Pacific Rim” sculptures were created by local artist Phil Newbury to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the cities’ relationship. One stands outside the Civic Adminstration Building; the other is at City Hall in Kumagaya. Gifts from the City of Kumagaya to the City of Invercargill are on display outside the Council Chamber in the Civic Administration Building.
Invercargill’s Kumagaya Friendship Association was formed in February 2004. It includes representatives of businesses, community organisations and members of the public with an interest in Kumagaya. The association,which is chaired by Invercargill shipping agent Tom Sawyer, produces a regular newsletter.