Sister-city bond to be treasured: ambassador

China's new ambassador to New Zealand, Wang Lutong, and Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull are planning celebrations for next year's 20th anniversary of the sister-city relationship between Shanghai and Dunedin. Photo by Craig Baxter.
China's new ambassador to New Zealand, Wang Lutong, and Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull are planning celebrations for next year's 20th anniversary of the sister-city relationship between Shanghai and Dunedin. Photo by Craig Baxter.

Dunedin's relationship with China is at the forefront of Wang Lutong's mind, in his new role as the 12th Chinese ambassador to New Zealand.

Mr Wang (44) made visiting Dunedin a priority after his formal admission to the Wellington-based role last month.

He has spent the past four days in Dunedin, meeting local authorities and members of the Chinese community.

To date, Mr Wang's only other official trips within New Zealand have been to Auckland.

He said Dunedin had historic importance for the Chinese, as it was the first place in New Zealand they settled, during the gold rush.

Dunedin's sister-city relationship with Shanghai was crucial to strengthening ties between New Zealand and China, he said.

Next year will mark the 20th anniversary of the sister-city relationship, which Mr Wang looked forward to.

''We'll have to have a big celebration for the anniversary,'' he said.

Mr Wang spent an hour discussing Dunedin's ties to China with Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull yesterday morning, and said the meeting was ''very productive''.

He also talked about future development with University of Otago vice-chancellor Prof Harlene Hayne on Friday.

China remained the largest source of foreign students in New Zealand, he said.

It was also the second-largest tourism market for New Zealand, and more Chinese visitors were now travelling to the South Island.

In the month since Mr Wang's appointment, there had been the inaugural Boeing 787 Dreamliner flight between Guangzhou and Auckland by China Southern Airline, as well as the opening of the first Chinese-registered bank in New Zealand - the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China.

Mr Wang said Dunedin had much to offer, particularly to Chinese tourists.

''I love this city. The landscape is so amazing and terrific and the people here are friendly, open and hospitable,'' he said.

''The food is also tasty. It seems Dunedin has the best of everything.''

He visited Larnach Castle, Baldwin St, the Cadbury factory, the First Church of Otago and the Dunedin Railway Station.

While touring the Otago Peninsula he enjoyed ''natural wonders'' including albatross, seals and penguins.

Mr Wang said Dunedin's Chinese Garden was a real asset to the city, and praised its authenticity.

''It's my hope that more and more local people in Dunedin go to visit the Chinese Garden.''

He returned to Wellington yesterday, and planned to tour more of New Zealand in his first role as an ambassador.

Christchurch-based Chinese consul-general Madame Tan Xiutian was also in Dunedin for Mr Wang's visit, along with officials from the Chinese embassy.

Before his move to New Zealand, Mr Wang worked for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing and was a counsellor on the CPC Central Committee.

He spent four years as third secretary at the Chinese embassy in the United Kingdom, and was also recently appointed the Chinese ambassador to the Cook Islands and Niue.

rosie.manins@odt.co.nz

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