City of Greater Bendigo will be asked to investigate forming a sister city relationship with the Chinese city of Haimen, following an unsuccessful relationship with a fellow Chinese town.
The council says the relationship has the potential to build stronger economic, cultural and educational links between Greater Bendigo and Haimen, which has a population of over one million people and is located in Jiangsu Province in China’s east.
If supported by councillors, the investigation will include sending a small delegation to Haimen including mayor Barry Lyons, chief executive Craig Niemann, an interpreter and representatives from the Bendigo Sister Cities Community Committee.
The visit is estimated to cost $7500.
The council says the visit will help avoid the shortcomings that led to the termination of its sister city relationship with Tianshui in 2013.
That relationship was established without proper groundwork or pre-existing linkages between the two cities, the council says.
Communications difficulties also resulted from Tianshui’s remoteness.
A preliminary assessment found that establishing trust through relationship building is an important factor for successful business and other engagement in China.
“Government (in China) maintains close links with industry thus any industry links between Bendigo and Haimen will be much more fruitful if there is local government support,” the early assessment states.
It emphasises the potential to build strong economic links, with the BSCCC identifying a potential market for local Bendigo produce and raising the possibility of establishing a small shopfront in Haimen to showcase Bendigo food and wine.
The assessment notes that a formal relationship could also be leveraged to increase the proportion of Chinese tourists that visit the Bendigo region when travelling to Victoria.
There is already an active exchange program between Bendigo South East College and Haimen Dongzhou Middle School that has been running since 2007. The middle school also has active relationships with Bendigo Senior Secondary College and Camp Hill Primary School.
If approved, the council will invite dignitaries from Haimen to Bendigo in Easter next year to formalise the relationship.