The atmosphere was filled with excitement and nostalgia as esteemed guests from near and far gathered to commemorate a remarkable milestone in the international relationship between Tauranga and Hitachi City. The occasion marked 35 years since the two cities established their sister city affiliation, forging enduring bonds of friendship, cultural exchange, and economic cooperation. From government officials to business representatives, educators to community leaders, and citizens young and old, the event recognised the contribution of the many people who have contributed to the success of our sister city relationship over the last thirty-five years.
Held in the picturesque Te Manawaroa room within the University of Waikato’s Tauranga campus, the celebration began with guests admiring a grand display of memorabilia showcasing the history and successes of the Tauranga-Hitachi relationship. Tables were adorned with artifacts such as the original photograph from the signing of the Sister City Agreement, news clippings, photo albums, and cultural treasures gifted to the city: an exquisite Japanese kimono and a traditional Japanese war helmet. The room itself was transformed into a captivating environment, with the Hitachi cherry blossom backdrop projected behind a stunning anniversary cake proudly displaying the Tauranga/Hitachi sister city logo, emphasising the remarkable 35-year journey.
Notable guests included: Tauranga City Council Head Commissioner, the Honourable Anne Tolley; Japanese Deputy Head of Mission, Mr Tatsushi Nishioka; former Tauranga City Council CEO, Mr Alan Bickers and former Mayoress at the time of signing the Sister City Agreement, Mrs Ena Pope and representative from Global Cities New Zealand, Hiromi Morris; plus, special visitors from our Sister City, the Hitachi City Girl Scouts.
Guiding the proceedings, Priority One’s General Manager: Workforce and Policy, and Chair of the Western Bay of Plenty International Strategy, Greg Simmonds, served as the Master of Ceremonies – his deep involvement in the Tauranga-Hitachi relationship lending a personal touch. The opening ceremony commenced with Kaumatua Tamati Tata delivering a Karakia, acknowledging the importance of unity and togetherness. A powerful performance by Tauranga Intermediate School’s Kapa Haka group followed, further electrifying the atmosphere, captivating the audience with their passionate display of indigenous culture.
Commissioner Tolley highlighted the shared values and connections between Tauranga and Hitachi in education, culture, and economics. Expressing gratitude for the long-standing relationship, she emphasised the significance of past collaborations, information-sharing for natural hazard planning, and the optimism for strengthening bonds in the future. The occasion also provided an opportunity to acknowledge and bid farewell to Nicholas Dickson, Tauranga’s Assistant Language Teacher appointed to Hitachi City, as he embarked on his journey to represent his hometown in his new role.
A special video message from Hitachi City Mayor Mr. Haruki Ogawa further underscored the importance of the sister city relationship. Recalling his visit to Tauranga in 2017 as the leader of a citizens’ delegation, Mayor Ogawa said, “It was a wonderful experience for me to be welcomed by the mild climate of Tauranga City and to spend a fulfilling time surrounded by rich nature and warm-hearted citizens.”
A captivating performance by the Hitachi Girl Scouts, who were on a visit as part of an international exchange celebrating a 23-year partnership with Girl Guides Tauranga, showcased the strong cultural and people-to-people bonds that have evolved between the two cities, before the event culminated with Japanese Deputy Head of Mission, Mr. Nishioka, emphasising the significance of long-standing international relationships in fostering global diplomacy, peace, and prosperity through mutual understanding and appreciation of different cultures. The formalities concluded with the ceremonial cutting of the anniversary cake by Commissioner Tolley and Mr. Nishioka.
About the Tauranga/Hitachi Sister City Relationship:
The sister city relationship between Tauranga and Hitachi, established on April 18th, 1988, has proven to be a significant alliance based on shared characteristics and collaborative efforts. Our two coastal cities, with similarities in population and port operations, have actively engaged in various areas of cooperation.
The educational exchange program involves English language teachers from Tauranga working in Hitachi and regular student exchanges between the cities, including the multi-decade partnership between the Tauranga Girl Guides and Hitachi Girl Scouts.
Cultural exchanges such as the arts initiative led by Creative Bay of Plenty, in which Tauranga residents hand-craft quilts for display in the museums of Hitachi City, have fostered strong bonds between our international arts communities and provided a strong foundation for collaboration.
Consistent communication and support between our two cities, even during times of adversity, highlight the enduring importance of sister city relationships. Trade promotion activities have facilitated the introduction of local products in Hitachi and trade opportunities for exporters in Japan. Additionally, the exchange of information on disaster planning has strengthened both cities’ preparedness. With frequent delegations and visits, the relationship continues to flourish.
Moreover, the celebration of 70 years of diplomatic relations between New Zealand and Japan in 2022 further underscores the significance of international connections. To further support our sister city relationship and celebrate the 35th anniversary of sister city relations between Tauranga and Hitachi City, a mayoral delegation, led by Head Commissioner Anne Tolley will visit Hitachi City in the fourth quarter of 2023. As the first international mayoral delegation between the two cities in over 6 years, there is excitement for the future collaborations and to deepen the relationship between Tauranga and Hitachi as we look toward a successful and prosperous future.