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Christchurch presents Wuhan, its Friendship City in China, with a gift of Pounamu

22 April 2008

From Diane Keenan who is with the Mayor's delegation in China

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker has presented a gift of a large stone of Pounamu mounted on a block of totara wood to Christchurch’s Friendship City of Wuhan, China.

Mr Parker presented the Pounamu to Wuhan’s Mayor Mr Chengfa Ruan at a ceremonial function for the Christchurch delegation to China and Wuhan Government officials, in Wuhan last night. Wuhan is China’s fourth largest city and home to 8.9 million people. It is on the banks of the Yangtze River and is an important industrial base in China, both in hi-tech and traditional manufacturing. It is also China’s Optic Valley, named after America’s Silicon Valley.

Two representatives from Ngai Tahu, Ann Johnstone and Dean Whaannga, handed over the Pounamu at the official ceremony. The Pounamu was precious cargo for Air New Zealand at the weekend. It had its own seat for part of its journey to China and was then shifted to Air New Zealand’s first class section for the rest of the flight. The Pounamu has been treated royally since its arrival having been admired, rubbed and kissed by scores of people already.

Bob Parker said the Pounamu was traditionally given as a gift of enduring friendship and that was exactly how he saw the relationship between Wuhan and Christchurch. The relationship has developed over 10 years and was formalised two years ago with the signing of the Friendship City agreement, New Zealand’s equivalent to sister city, agreement. Since the signing Wuhan officials have given Christchurch their city’s official gift, a large bell which sits in the foyer of the Council Chambers to Christchurch.

“Today there are 22 projects being managed by Christchurch City Council and Canterbury Development Corporation ranging from research collaboration, education exchange, scholar exchange, horse racing and cultural exchanges,” Mr Parker said.

“Although Christchurch is tiny by Wuhan standards, we have much in common. Your science and horticulture is both similar to, and in other respects very complementary to our own capabilities. The ground between us is fertile for new opportunities.”

Mr Parker said his delegation’s visit to Wuhan was not about politics, but about building relationships and strengthening economic and cultural ties.

Mr Ruan said he attached great importance to the Mayor’s visit. “I am so pleased at how smoothly the relationship between the two cities has gone. I believe our future together will be very bright,” he said.

Mr Ruan is one of the 14 Mayors who will be at the Central China Mayor Forum this weekend where Christchurch City Councillor Barry Corbett will speak on the initiatives Christchurch is adopting to protect its environment and become a sustainable city. Mr Parker returns to Christchurch for Anzac Day memorial services.

Ngai Tahu Seafoods flew 100 crayfish to China for official functions and these were a talking point last night, with officials wanting to know how they could secure more of the delicacy and other fresh New Zealand fish.

Yesterday the delegation also visited the Wuhan Economic and Technological Development Zone. At one factory they saw Honda cars being assembled at the rate of 645 a day on each production line and at another factory on the complex vehicles which are powered by alternatives to petrol and diesel, were being developed.

Mr Parker said the Wuhan link was an extremely good one for Christchurch given the strength the relationship already and the potential for both cities to tap into each other’s expertise and technology

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