Sister Cities

New Plymouth has two sister cities: Mishima in Japan and Kunming in China. Our city has formed great relationships with both cities, with numerous social and economic benefits.


Sister City agreements were signed in both cities by Mayors David Lean and Kichiro Okuda in 1991. The first document was signed in Mishima, Japan, coinciding with Mishima's 50th anniversary of city status. Later that evening thousands of residents lined the main street as the New Plymouth delegation led a street lantern parade.

The second signing took place in New Plymouth a few weeks later, as part of New Plymouth's 150th anniversary celebrations.

In Mishima, sister city activities are coordinated by a community group called the Mishima International Relations Association (MIRA). MIRA has an elected president and an executive committee.

There have been numerous exchanges both from and to Mishima since the sister city agreement was formalised.  Every year New Plymouth families play host to junior high students from Mishima. The students stay in local homes and experience kiwi life. The students attend local schools with their host brothers and sisters.

In 2006 the inaugural Mishima-New Plymouth teaching programme started.  Every two years, Mishima and New Plymouth send a teacher to spend up to a month in their sister city to observe learning and teaching practice in local schools and to interact with educational colleagues and the wider community. The teacher is home-hosted within the local community.  In the period to 2011, seven teachers have undertaken exchanges.

Mishima is located at the entrance of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, in the east of Shizuoka Prefecture, 100km south of Tokyo.

Two-thirds of the city is mountainous or hilly, with the most prominent feature Mount Fuji.

The climate is milder than much of Japan, with an annual average temperature of 15.3°C and average rainfall of 1,858 mm. In summer the humidity is very high.

Around 113,119 people live in Mishima (similar to the Taranaki region).

Mishima is home to many manufacturing businesses including production machinery (32 businesses), food (31 businesses), fabricated metal products (28 businesses), electrical machinery, equipment and supplies (19 businesses) and transportation equipment (19 businesses).

Local products include: rice, potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, white radish, cabbage, Chinese cabbage and tea.

Cattle, pigs, chicken and other fowl are farmed in the Mishima area.

Mishima is famous for its spring water, which comes from the snow of Mt Fuji.

Mishima has an active chamber of commerce. Commercial businesses in Mishima include wholesale trade (286 businesses) and retail trade including food and beverage (333 businesses), dry goods, apparel and apparel accessories (181 businesses), furniture, fixtures, machinery and equipment (102 businesses) and automobile and bicycle (77 businesses) and over 343 miscellaneous retail trades.  

People have lived in the Mishima area for around 5000 years. The Mishima area prospered as a central town in Izu and established the public office of Izu County in AD 680. 

It is also famous as the place where the first shogun of Kamakura, shogunate Yoritomo Minamoto, began his call to arms in 1180. Thereafter, it became a town centred around the Mishima Grand Shrine.

In 1601 Mishima became one of the post stations on the Tokaido Road that connected Tokyo and Kyoto and was very crowded with travellers crossing Mt. Hakone. In 1941 Mishima was designated a city.

Mount Fuji
Mount Fuji is a short trip from Mishima. This famous conical-shaped volcano bears a striking resemblance to New Plymouth’s Mount Taranaki.


Prior to the signing of a formal sister city agreement, the links between Kunming, Yunnan Province and New Plymouth District involved regular contact between the horticulture, education and business sectors.

We have hosted official groups from Kunming of officials from the education, police, corrections, health and local government sectors. Similarly, Kunming’s local government has hosted delegations from the Council.

A formal sister city relationship began in 2003 after the agreement and memorandum of understanding was signed in New Plymouth on 11 August 2003 and in Kunming on 8 October 2003.

Kunming garden in New Plymouth
During the sister city signing celebrations in New Plymouth, the Mayor of Kunming gifted a garden to the city’s people. In collaboration with landscape professionals from the Council a team of designers from the Kunming Landscaping Bureau created a traditional Chinese garden within Pukekura Park. 

The garden features a moongate entrance and pavilion connected by a meandering pathway. Chinese species were used to emphasise the landscape character.

Costs of building the garden were met by the Kunming Municipal Government. We hosted the Kunming construction team during their stay in New Plymouth.

Kunming is the capital of the Yunnan province in south-west China. It is skirted on three sides by mountains, with one side opening onto the Dianchi Lake. Kunming is located on a 2km high. The jurisdiction of Kunming has an area of 6,200 square km, including five city districts, one city and eight rural counties.

Kunming is the hub of communications in Yunnan and a gateway to China for southeast Asia. 

The city is nicknamed “City of Spring” due to it always being spring-like in Kunming. The reasons for this are its elevation and location just north of the tropic of cancer. The average temperature in winter is 8ĒC and 20ĒC in summer.

Kunming is the focal point of Yunnan minority culture.  Twenty five ethnic minorities live in the area. This is nearly half of the total number of ethnic minorities in China.

Tourism is a key part of Kunming as it is one of the major cities that mainland Chinese go to as tourists, with more than 16 million Chinese visiting it per year and another 600,000 foreign tourists visiting annually. The city's produce includes foodstuffs, trucks, machine tools, electrical equipment, textiles, chemicals, building materials and plastics, and it has its own steel plant.

Kunming is a significant horticultural centre in China, providing products such as grain, wheat, horsebeans, corn, potato and fruit such as peaches, apples, oranges, grapes and chestnuts.  Kunming is world-famous for its flowers and flower-growing exports. More than 400 types of flowers are commonly grown in Kunming. The camellia, yulan magnolica, azalea, fairy primrose, lily and orchid are known as the six famous flowers of the city.

The horticulture sector in Kunming and Taranaki have close ties.  The Kunming Botanical Institute and Pukeiti Rhododendron Trust established a relationship over a decade ago. This produces exchanges of botanical information as well as a number of specialist tour group exchanges.

A key part of the relationship is the exchange of seed material and sharing of research and knowledge. Pukeiti is helping protect the genetic stock of rare plants found in Yunnan Province by growing these plants on the slopes of the Pukeiti Range. If these plants ever disappear from Yunnan, the can be restocked from the Pukeiti material. Similarly, the Kunming Botanical Institute is growing New Zealand plants in Yunnan as part of the conservation project.

Kunming Botanical Institute coordinates and leads tours from Pukeiti around Yunnan gardens. Pukeiti has sponsored a Kunming scientist at Massey University to study the genetic finger-printing of camellias.

The city continues to develop rapidly during the modernisation efforts of China. Kunming's streets have widened while office buildings and housing projects develop at a fast pace. Kunming has been designated a Special Tourism Centre and as such has proliferating high-rises and luxury hotels.

Kunming has a rich history going back 2000 years. It was a remote outpost within China until the eighth century, when it became a secondary capital of the kingdom of Nanzhao which was centred to the northwest of it at Dali. Kunming obtained wide fame during the Ming dynasty, and during World War II it was a key point on the Burma Road.

Education links
One of the first exchange programmes between a New Zealand secondary school and a Chinese middle school was established between New Plymouth District and Kunming.

Every year, Kunming Number 15 Middle School and Inglewood High School exchange students who live with host families and attend classes at their host school. Some Kunming students, who have experienced life in Inglewood, have returned to New Plymouth to study at the Pacific International Hotel Management School.

A number of educational institutions have developed strong links with Kunming and other parts of China. Education Taranaki and local education providers have worked hard to establish a New Plymouth identity in Kunming. This work was facilitated by the sister city links with Kunming.