Vet­ting value

Hot on the heels of an aus­ter­ity bud­get, Porirua City Coun­cil will spend $8100 to send a del­e­ga­tion to Porirua’s sis­ter city Nishio, Ja­pan in Oc­to­ber. AN­DREA O’NEIL asks what value Porirua is get­ting from its sis­ter cities.

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS -

Like any fam­ily, Porirua and its sis­ter cities have a re­la­tion­ship that runs hot and cold.

For years there has been min­i­mal contact be­tween city of­fi­cials and their coun­ter­parts in Nishio, Ja­pan. Porirua’s re­la­tion­ship with sis­ter city Black­town in Sydney has been largely re­stricted to artis­tic ex­changes.

The sis­ter cities scheme will be scru­ti­nised this year in a re­view com­mis­sioned by coun­cil­lor Liz Kelly, who holds the sis­ter cities port­fo­lio.

‘‘I want to have an un­der­stand­ing of what ex­actly we’re spend­ing this money on,’’ she says.

‘‘It’s not just about be­ing friendly and hav­ing these re­la­tion­ships: there has to be some sort of value.’’

June’s Long Term Plan re­duced the city’s sis­ter cities bud­get by 6 per cent to $83,660.

How­ever, coun­cil records show lit­tle of that bud­get gets spent, with just a few thou­sand given to schools for ex­changes to Nishio and Black­town and sev­eral thou­sand spent host­ing del­e­ga­tions from those cities when they visit Porirua about once ev­ery two years.

Some money is spent host­ing gar­den­ers sent from Nishio to main­tain Pataka’s Ja­panese gar­den, but their flights are cov­ered by Nishio.

The Sars out­break and last year’s Ja­panese earth­quake and nu­clear scare dis­cour­aged vis­its be­tween Nishio and Porirua, Ms Kelly says.

But five years af­ter the last visit, a del­e­ga­tion will visit Nishio this Oc­to­ber, com­pris­ing Ms Kelly, who will pay her own way, mayor Nick Leggett, coun­cil­lor Ken Dou­glas, and coun­cil chief ex­ec­u­tive Gary Simp­son.

Sis­ter cities were cre­ated post-World War II to pro­mote world peace but the fo­cus go­ing for­ward will be eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties, Ms Kelly says.

‘‘ There’s a real fo­cus now on us­ing sis­ter cities . . . to look for eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties. These aren’t jun­kets.’’

Welling­ton mayor Celia WadeBrown se­cured sev­eral con­tracts from her May visit to sis­ter city Bei­jing, Ms Kelly says.

Porirua’s del­e­ga­tion will visit Mit­subishi, which has a yard in Porirua, hop­ing to find some busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties, Ms Kelly says.

‘‘Un­til you can ac­tu­ally sit down at the ta­ble and talk to some­one, you don’t know what the op­por­tu­ni­ties are.’’

Nishio re­cently amal­ga­mated with five neigh­bour­ing cities and Ms Kelly is also keen to find out the ben­e­fits and draw­backs of amal­ga­ma­tion, she says.

In the fu­ture, Porirua busi­nesses – pay­ing their own way – could make up del­e­ga­tions to Nishio and friendly city Yangzhou in China, says Darcy Ni­cholas, PCC’s gen­eral man­ager of community ser­vices.

Hutt and Welling­ton al­ready take busi­nesses to sis­ter cities.

Photo: FAIR­FAX

Yoyo re­la­tion­ship: Af­ter years of min­i­mal contact and un­der­spend­ing, Porirua is hop­ing to get eco­nomic ben­e­fits from its sis­ter cities. World yoyo cham­pion Hiroyuki Suzuki, 14, vis­ited Post­gate School in a 2003 ex­change from Nishio.

Kassie Ale­sana, 21, stu­dent. ‘‘I per­son­ally have had my own ben­e­fit with Nishio, ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a dif­fer­ent cul­ture. Any­one who goes over­seas, even to Aus­tralia, will see a dif­fer­ent cul­ture. Even though we have so many dif­fer­ent cul­tures here, we’re still quite ig­no­rant of the out­side world, and it’s quite good to have dif­fer­ent points of views.’’

David Pur­due, 27, Porirua fit­ness, youth and coun­cil worker. ‘‘For youth, we should have sis­ter cities. Be­cause the youth are the next gen­er­a­tion and they’re the ones that un­der­stand more than the old ones. For them to have those op­por­tu­ni­ties would be the ul­ti­mate goal.’’

Ira Fer­nando, 78, re­tired house­wife. ‘‘We are a multi-cul­tural coun­try, and Porirua is even more so. To have re­la­tion­ships with other coun­tries is a good thing.’’

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