Wellington Sakai Association attendees:
Frances Yamada (Chair, full conference)
- Bill Nathan (Treasurer, Day 1)
- Catherine Harrow (Secretary, Dinner Day 1)
- Nic Keating (Committee member, Dinner Day 1)
- Melissa Huggins (Committee member, Dinner Day 1, Conference Day 2)
Theme: Citizen Diplomacy – Its Power Locally and Globally
Becoming a more multicultural society
How to build relations through business and economic development, community work, art and culture
How to come together and work towards building closer relations with other countries
The conference was opened with a short speech by Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown.
Fun fact: Wellington has a "sister-province" relationship with Zhejiang Province in China (see more at: http://wellington.govt.nz/about-wellington/international-relations/partnership-cities).
Keynote speaker: Mike McRoberts
Mike spoke about making personal connections. Staying in people's houses rather than 4-5 star hotels. A key takeaway was his message to not look for the differences between people, but to look at the similarities - no matter what the race, religion, language, beliefs, everyone is a mother, father, brother, sister. Mike talked about his experience making personal connections in Pakistan post-911, amongst 9000 journos in Islamabad and travelling to the border with Afghanistan. He spoke of not just being a reporter but an observer and participant of critical events like the Christchurch earthquakes.
He reflected on the bonds between cities and/or countries that are shown when other countries send aid/soldiers to help and are welcomed.
Mike went straight from reporting in Christchurch on March 11 to Japan, to report on the tsunami. He spoke if huge incredible grace of the Japanese people. In the end Mike left after the Fukushima explosions to return home in time for the Christchurch memorial one month after the earthquake, which included a standing ovation for foreign aid workers.
His messages was one of the bonds between cities. As an example, the Mayor of (Christchurch sister-city) Kurashiki collected $350,000 at the local railway station in Japan following the earthquakes which was used to fund three firemen to Christchurch to assist with the aftermath.
Tweet: How do we tangibly quantify the economic benefits of sister cities?
Berlinda Chin, Director, The Office of Ethnic Affairs & Robson Liang, Chairman, IEF Investment Group
Fun facts: 213 ethnicities in NZ. 60% can be found in Auckland. Key languages are English, Maori, Samoan, Hindi, and Mandarin. 25% of NZers born overseas, 40% of those are in Auckland.
Advice to connect with ethnic communities. These migrants have a vested interest in ensuringNZ communities continue to accept migrants. There is a need for ethnic business programmes - because the business will come when you get the people stuff right.
NZ local councils and economic development agencies (EDAs) can't force businesses to do much, but can create opportunities. Local government can partner with the community organisations. Sister cities can cut across all levels to make connections. Social and cultural relationships are long lasting and can lead to other opportunities.
Message: Give your city ambassadors a sense of vision when they go overseas. Where is Wellington going?
Keith Cowan - Chair of the Christchurch-Adelaide Sister City Committee
Keith spoke strongly about the difficulty in calculating the real benefits that sister cities bring to a regional economy, and how sister cities don't get credit for the work done in stabilising and maintaining the connections between wider regions. For example the loss of direct flights from Christchurch to Tokyo (which were originally established due to the strong Christchurch-Kurashiki relationship) represents a loss of $20million per year to the wider Christchurch/Canterbury economy.
Keith demonstrated a matrix used to calculate the value of events to the local economy based on visitor numbers, accommodation and approximate tourist spend etc. This has real potential application for event type activities that sister cities hold.
Tony Sutorius - Plimmerton Volunteer Fire Service
Tony gave an interesting presentation on his fire service squad's trip to sister city Nishio. He described Tokyo as an extremely polite blade runner city (that is futuristic technological?) where "the rubbish trucks don't clank". Despite having very little Japanese between them, his team was able to communicate with Nishio's fire service staff by speaking "firefighter".
An interesting point was his takeaway that as a foreigner in Japan, you are representing your country/organisation whether you want to or not!
Issues that came up on the trip included managing mixed gender crews - something that the NZ side had not even thought about but being extremely uncommon in Japan meant a lack of female onsen in the firehouse (with men all bathing together), which meant that the female members of kiwi crew had to be billeted out of the fire house and with host families.
The trip also provided an opportunity for the two groups to talk about the challenges of modern volunteer firefighting associations in Japan (based on the village model) and how modern NZ volunteer firefighters can contribute to the necessary changes needed to modernise.
Janet Andrews - Wellington Xiamen Association (WXA)
Janet gave an interesting description of individual sister city connections as "a net of small connections that can form a larger whole" in a broader relationship. She referred to a WXA initiative of a Chinese tea "van" for events that worked similar to a mobile coffee cart.
Idea: Could WSA consider something similar for promotional purposes? Even stocking and providing tea from Sakai at events? Janet also referred to the use of a WCC photographer (Simon Woolf) at WXA events which could be an option for future large WSA events.
China’s first sister city was between Tianjin and Kobe, Japan in 1973. China now has 2166 sister cities with 133 countries, of which 32 are with New Zealand (according to the Sister Cities website). The most important thing sister cities provide is people-to-people connections through tourism, education and arts.
Per capita, New Zealand is the number one country with sister cities with Japan, while being the 10th by total number (47). Significant Japanese sister city anniversaries in 2015 include the 20th sister city relationship anniversaries of Foxton with Narita and Waitomo with Tatsuno.
Japan advised that there was a sister cities conference planned in July. It was noted that there was no New Zealand delegation. Hokkaido prefecture has the largest concentration of sister cities with New Zealand by prefecture.
Air NZ Sister Cities Awards: Wellington Sakai Association had submitted an Award application based on the Giant Kimono project, but was not a winner this time round. However we were encouraged to tweak our application and resubmit in 2016 (applications can be made up to two years following the event/activity).
Conference presentations were livened up with a guess-the-exact-variety of red/white wine tasting and a lively acapella performance during the dinner.
Conference day 2: Youth Development
Shawn Thomas (37 Frames motion pictures) was keynote speaker day 2 of #SCNZ2015 with his movie youtu.be/HCTfaolTEG0. He asked the question “What is multiculturalism?” and described it as “a garden of flowers”.
Asia New Zealand representatives spoke about their range of new internships, including an exciting opportunity with Rakuten in Tokyo (more info: http://asianz.org.nz/about-us/our-programmes/grant-and-internships).
Stewart Brougham from Wintec International spoke about student diplomacy, and the theme of student exchanges as “being out of your comfort zone”. When representing your city/country overseas, aim to knock people off their guard, inspire them, surprise them. His overall message was “don't underestimate the power of an individual” and emphasized that sister cities have a role to play in cultural exchanges as city culture is critical to the international student experience. Student life + city culture + homestay = global citizens.
Question: how do cities make international students feel welcome?
Ray Wallace (Hutt City Mayor) spoke about his upcoming trip to Japan in the first week of October, accompanied by a delegation of city representatives.An additional highlight was a live Skype conversation with Hutt City sister city Minoh, who also performed a traditional Japanese taiko drum dance.
Sister Cities New Zealand President Hiromi Morris closed the conference mentioned the Sister Cities NZ logo competition, with a $500 prize supported by Asia NZ Foundation (more info on their website). The 2016 conference will be held in Nelson.
Most speaker presentations are available at: http://sistercities.org.nz/?s=news#2015-conference-wellington-10-11-april-2015.