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Sister cities for 40 years: events postponed

chinese lanterns osmanthus garden

The community celebrations of the 40th anniversary of the Hastings-Guilin Sister City relationship have been postponed and the events spread across the year.

The COVID Level 2 restrictions in Auckland that remain in force until at least next week mean there is too much uncertainty around the ability of the 50-strong performance group to travel from Auckland to Hastings. They were scheduled to perform in the free Opera House show Sister Cities Alive, and during a Hastings-Guilin community and trade showcase in Functions on Hastings.

“We also have many guests with Guilin connections who were planning to travel from Auckland,” said Hastings District councillor and event organiser Kevin Watkins.

Aucklanders travelling while their region is at Level 2 cannot attend large gatherings in other areas.

“The performers and guests need to confirm travel arrangements and accommodation now, which means any changes to Auckland’s COVID levels next week will come too late,” said Mr Watkins.

The annual Lighting of the Osmanthus Gardens has been moved to April 12 to 18, with the rest of the celebrations now scheduled for September, to tie in with the Blossom Festival.

“By spreading the events, we reduce the risk of COVID alert level changes impacting all the events at once,” said Mr Watkins.

Moving the Lighting of the Osmanthus Gardens back to April also has another benefit. “We will be out of daylight-saving, so the lanterns can be lit earlier which is better for families with young children who always enjoy the festival.”

The original timing of events was aligned with the 1981 signing of the Sister City agreement on March 4. It was the first Sister City agreement between cities in China and New Zealand. Over the ensuing 40 years there had been numerous student, teacher, science, trade, and cultural exchanges, which had seen special friendships formed, information shared, and understanding develop.

“It really is a special time and we look forward to the community joining together as exciting events unfold over the year,” said Mr Watkins.

22 February 2021

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