Hastings' relationship with the Chinese city Guilin started in 1977, after research scientist Dr Don McKenzie identified a number of common areas of interest between the two cities, including horticulture and their rural-urban mix.
Hastings City Council (now Hastings District Council) took up Dr Don's suggestion to establish a sister-city relationship, and approached the Chinese Embassy in Wellington in October 1978. In July 1980 the mayor of Guilin Liang Shan invited a Hastings delegation to visit his city to discuss the proposal.
The Hastings-Guilin sister-city protocol was signed on March 4, 1981, by then mayors Jim O'Connor and Liang Shan. This was the first sister-city agreement between cities in New Zealand and China, and has continued to be a model for many sister-city relationships around New Zealand.
The protocol aims to develop the relationship through increased work and cultural exchanges between the two cities: social, economic, educational, and political understanding. Since 1985 the relationship has included the following initiatives:
Guilin is one of China's medium-sized urban centres, now modernising rapidly. It has become the third most popular tourist destination in China after the Great Wall and the Buried Army.
The district is renowned for its breathtaking and picturesque scenery, and is also a historical and cultural city of great significance.
Its urban infrastructure is improving steadily and it attracts considerable investment, both domestic and overseas.
Guilin is in the north-eastern part of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, 150 metres above sea level, and about an 80-minute flight inland from Guangzhou (Canton). Guilin has abundant rainfall of around 1900mm a year and a mild climate.
It is not freezing cold in the winter nor excessively hot in summer, having around 309 frost-free days and more than 1550 hours of sunshine each year. The yearly mean temperature is 19 degrees Celsius.
The Guilin Municipal territory measures 27,809 square kilometres.
Guilin has a rich culture and heritage, dating back more than 2000 years.
The construction of the canal linking the Xiangjiang and Lijiang rivers in 214BC for the freighting of military supplies, saw Guilin begin to develop geographic and strategic importance.
Some splendid cultural relics and historical sites have been found and maintained. Today, 109 of them are under official government protection. These include fossils of human teeth dating back 50,000 years, stone implements, earthenware, ancient graves and 10,000-year-old skeletons, stone carvings and buildings.
Well over 5.3 million people live in the Guilin Municipality, a local government territory spanning both urban and rural communities. Guilin city itself has a population of more than 1.2 million people living within 866 square kilometres. The majority of the region's population is made up of the Han people, with minority groups including Zhuang, Miao and Hui.
The local authority, Guilin Municipal People's Government, oversees the city of Guilin, 11 counties and six town districts.
Its governing system includes a mayor, nine deputy-mayors, and a comprehensive set of management departments. Local government has embarked upon a strong tourist growth strategy over the last 10 years, including urban infrastructure improvements, high-quality hotel and commercial developments, promotion and the launch of an international tourist festival in 1992.
In September 1998 the city and region of Guilin were merged, enlarging Guilin by 5.6 times in area. The Government believed that the amalgamation would benefit the protection of the world-famous Lijiang River, and facilitate the planning, development and construction of the Greater Guilin tourist zone.
Guilin has around 64,000 hectares of cultivated land. Major crops include rice, bamboo, sugar cane, persimmons, pomelos, oranges, water-chestnuts (which are popular in Hong Kong), tangerines, loquats and pears.
In recent years great importance has been placed on the reorganisation of agricultural production with new technology and scientific advances introduced. Bases have been set up at various locations to specialise in the production of cash crops. Forestry, fishing and animal husbandry have also growing in importance and the rural economy of Guilin is steadily expanding.
Guilin is a rising industrial city with key areas of production including electronic goods such as televisions and microwave communication radar, rubber tyres, machinery and tools, luxury buses, local crafts and embroidery and food.
Other key areas of initiative lie in the development of science and technology, and education. The city is home to 22 research institutes and has more than 54,000 people employed in the industry. Guilin plays a leading role for China in applying electronic technology in the fields of new materials, biotechnology and fire chemical engineering.
Guilin has 725 educational institutes including 15 universities and colleges, 20 specialist secondary schools and 500 high schools. Guilin was among the first cities in China to accomplish the national goal of wiping out illiteracy and introducing a programme of nine years of compulsory education.
Diverse and attractive features thrive in the Guilin area. The limestone karst physique of the local landscape, weathered and scoured over countless time, has taken the shape of forests of craggy peaks, winding rivers, solitary summits, caves and underground streams.
They surely rank as some of the most spectacular and moving sights in the world, including an almost magical journey to view the scenery of the Lijiang (the Li River), and the colour-lit stalagmites and stalactites of the Reed Flute Cave, and Seven Star Caves (1000m in length).
Accommodation, meals and tours are of a high standard, and since 1973, visitor numbers to Guilin have multiplied with domestic tourists numbering more than 90 million a year, and overseas visitor numbers topping one million per year.
For more information on the Guilin Hastings sister-city relationship contact Council; phone 871 5000.
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