As always around Anzac Day I remember those who have served and those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in war.
It’s quite bittersweet. I think with pride of my own family who have served in the wars. I think of the great stories we have about the Maori Battalion. But I also think about how futile war is, how the loss of our soldiers irreparably damage families and communities.
To me, these annual days of remembrance serve as a reminder to us that while we remember with reverence those who passed away in war, we don’t want that to ever happen again.
There are no official council meetings this week, so in line with my Anzac opening, I wanted to talk about our Gisborne District Sister Cities Committee (GDSCC).
I have the honour of being appointed to the committee by the mayor. Something I have enjoyed doing my entire time I have been on council.
GDSCC was recently acknowledged by Sister Cities NZ for it’s 40 year relationship with Palm Desert, California, USA.
We have sister cities relationships with Mahina in Tahiti, Nonoichi in Japan, Rizhao in China, and of course, Palm Desert. We also have a sister port relationship with Gamagori in Japan.
I’ve always been interested in sister cities as I have had a keen life long interest in building connections between countries.
One thing that I feel doesn’t get told enough is why sister cities exist.
They exist today in their current format because of World War Two.
Pre WW2, there are examples of sister cities or “twin towns” but post World War Two a concerted effort was made by cities in rival nations as a way to encourage peace between said nations.
For example after World War Two, Coventry in England twinned with Stalingrad in Russia and Dresden in Germany. All three cities were heavily bombed during the war and this connection was made to foster reconciliation between those specific areas.
The rationale is that nations are less likely to go to war if people and cities in those different nations have relationships with each other. For example, if NZ and Japan happened to be on opposite sides of a war, the citizenry of both countries would be very reluctant to engage in that war because Gisborne has a sister cities agreement with Nonoichi, Christchurch has one with Kurashiki, Auckland has one with Fukuoka and so on and so forth for many of our cities.
The concept of sister cities has grown over time to include nations that weren’t just in World War 2. Mainly these relationships are for economic, cultural and educational reasons, but this can also be a way to future proof our world to never go back to a state of full blown world war again.
We have relationships with two port cities, Gamagori and Rizhao. We no longer export to Gamagori, but we continue to still export wood and wine to Rizhao. Our sister cities committee runs a photo competition with Gamagori still to this day.
We have a relationship with Mahina because of our connection through the transit of Venus, the navigator Tupaea and his role on the Endeavour.
It takes a lot of effort and many people over time to foster a 40 year relationship with Palm Desert, and a 30 year relationship with Nonoichi. In 2026 we will be celebrating 20 years for Gamagori and Rizhao, and 10 years for Mahina.
I want to commend our committee of volunteers, past and present. You’re work is so important.
Thank you for your service.
As always, it’s a privilege to do this work on behalf of you Te Tairawhiti.