The fruits of a 20-year relationship between Goulburn and Shibetsu flourished on Monday with the opening of a unique garden in Victoria Park.
The first stage of the Shibetsu garden, designed as a place of peace, was jointly opened by Mayor Bob Kirk and Shibetsu Mayor Yuji Makino, who led an eight-member visiting delegation. It marked the 20th anniversary of the sister-city relationship.
Margaret O'Neill was Goulburn City Mayor in 1994 and worked closely with a professor from Shibetsu to establish the friendship. They were keen to foster a link with the Japanese city that would yield cultural and economic benefits.
As she told Monday's gathering, that bond has seen some 250 students and community members exchange visits. She detailed the friendship's long history, which was formalised on July 3, 1999 with the signing of the agreement.
"I'm very proud of this achievement and we've made great friendships over the 20 years. This garden will be a showpiece for Goulburn and Shibetsu. Shibetsu people will always be welcome in my heart," she said.
A garden feature was named the Takariko-O'Neill gazebo in recognition of the mayors who initiated the agreement.
Mayor Bob Kirk and Mayor Makino opened the Victoria Park addition, as well as its entry, named in their honour.
Mayor Makino said he was overwhelmed by the garden and praised the relationship and opportunities created as a result of the friendship.
"In Shibetsu we have the beautiful Goulburn rose in our garden," he said.
"...Now we will continue our beautiful relationship into the future."
Shibetsu also established a museum, to which Goulburn donated many items.
Mr Makino said Shibetsu garden technician, Takashi Takiyoshi, who was among the delegation, had donated two of the specially imported granite boulders from his own home for the Victoria Park showpiece. The city also donated replica bamboo fencing, a stone 'snow lantern' and sent its landscape designer, Remi Izumi, to help design the feature. This year her husband also visited Goulburn to refine the layout and source materials.
Cr Kirk said his council was grateful for the contribution and said the garden would be a wonderful addition to the growing number of facilities in Victoria Park.
The garden is only in its infancy. More plantings, including Japanese maples, pathways, another gazebo, waterfalls, a bridge, koi pond, picnic areas and seating and a ring of cherry blossoms stretching over to the Wendell Rosewarne walk are planned across two stages. The project also includes an irrigation line. A CCTV camera is mounted nearby to deter vandalism.
Corporate and community services director Brendan Hollands said the council had allocated $500,000 over the next two financial years but more could be needed. It is enlisting a quantity surveyor to fully cost the work before applying for grant funding.
The delegation arrived in Goulburn on Monday to a guard of honour including police and council staff and management, Cr Kirk and other councillors, followed by a welcome in the council chambers.They went on a bus tour of Goulburn in the afternoon and then attended the garden opening. Afterwards, they enjoyed a barbecue at the nearby Ken Robson pavilion at Seiffert Oval.
On Tuesday they visited the Taralga Wildlife Park and Goulburn sites such as the waterworks and Tribe Brewery. In the evening, they were treated to a civic reception at The Mecure, Goulburn, to which business and community representatives were invited.
The delegation includes Shibetsu City Council chairman, Tetsuyuki Matsugahira, the city's general manager and manager, council staff and business representatives.
They will depart the city on Thursday.
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