Mayor behind strong Chinese ties

By David Haxton

Kapiti mayor K Gurunathan signs the Wellington Declaration, which aims at strengthening ties between local authorities in New Zealand and China.
Kapiti mayor K Gurunathan signs the Wellington Declaration, which aims at strengthening ties between local authorities in New Zealand and China.

Kapiti mayor K Gurunathan has taken part in the second New Zealand China Mayoral Forum.

The first forum was held in Xiamen, China, in 2015, with the aim of providing "an important platform for exchange and co-operation between the local governments of the two countries especially the mayors of both sides," a signing document said.

The second forum was held at Te Papa, Wellington, in December, with the topic focusing on "sustainable economies - balancing economic development with the environment".

A key focus was on "education, tourism and primary industries" as well as helping "build co-operation and exchanges between our businesses".

Mr Gurunathan said his attendance was to support the forum host, Wellington City, and make contacts that might be useful for Kapiti.

"Whether we like it or not China will be or already is the number one global economic power and greater local exposure to Chinese business and cultural protocols can only be a good thing.

"One area where links have already developed is with international students from China.

"Kapiti College has been a leading light with long and trusting relationships with selected Chinese education markets.

"I'm keen for council to facilitate a collective approach, including primary schools, to leverage opportunities."

He had a conversation with Zhuang Jia Han, mayor of Xiamen Municipal People's Government, population 3.5 million.

"He asked me about Kapiti's population and when I told him he smiled and said Kapiti must be a beautiful district.

"These Chinese mayors represent populations the size of other countries.

"Mr Zhuang was kind enough to invite me to visit Xiamen but I'm not interested in ratepayer funded junkets.

"It's well known that many councils which have established sister-city relationships globally have little to show for it.

"Ratepayers are right to expect a hard-nosed business case showing bangs for ratepayer dollars.

"Council's can, however, facilitate private sector engagement with China where possible."

He said it was good to see Kapiti Chamber of Commerce president Heather Hutchings at the forum.

"She was there in her capacity as a representative of a Kapiti-based export company.

"We were impressed with the presentations by representatives of Alibaba, China's leading online trading platform, and its sister company, Alipay, its cashless mobile payment system.

"Heather is hoping to invite its New Zealand project director, Ken Freer, to be an Electra Breakfast speaker this year.

"New Zealand earned $1.5 billion from the Chinese tourism market and that figure is expected to double in five years.

"It might be useful for Kapiti retailers to know that these tourists largely use Alipay."

The third forum will be held in China.

- Kapiti News

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