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Feature: New Zealand city looks to returns on friendly ties with China's Kunming


11:05, July 30, 2013

WELLINGTON, July 30 (Xinhua) -- A New Zealand city has signaled its hopes for a booming relationship with China with a novel gift - - 27 seedlings of one of the world's biggest and longest-lived trees.

The 27 giant kauri are believed to be the first ever of this New Zealand native to be planted in China and will form part of a New Zealand garden in the Yunnan provincial capital of Kunming.

Gifted to Kunming by its sister city, the North Island city of New Plymouth, the garden is still being created, but if the kauri are symbolic of a long friendship, then the bonds should be strong for generations to come.

Kauri are among the world's mightiest trees, according to New Zealand's Department of Conservation, growing to more than 50 meters tall, with trunk girths of up to 16 meters and living for more than 2,000 years.

Chair of New Plymouth's International Relations Working Party Lynn Bublitz said the native New Zealand plants for the garden, which include kowhai and pohutukawa, were chosen with deliberation to reciprocate the Kunming government's gift of a Chinese garden to mark the sister city agreement in 2003.

"The kauri is so important to New Zealand and the Chinese garden here is adjacent to a substantial planting of kauri, while the pohutukawa flower is red, which is a very important color in China," Bublitz told Xinhua in a phone interview.

The bright yellow flower of the kowhai is "regarded as New Zealand's national flower," he said.

"We just wanted something that is a substantial and long-living portion of New Zealand -- these plants and trees are very long- living."

The New Plymouth council has come under fire from local critics for spending 90,000 NZ dollars (72,237 U.S. dollars) on the Kunming garden -- a sum dwarfed by the 300,000 NZ dollars that Kunming spent on the garden in New Plymouth -- in uncertain economic times.

However, New Zealand China Friendship Society (NZCFS) national president Dave Bromwich said the gesture showed "a great deal of respect to the people of Kunming."

"Recently the NZCFS has noticed increased interest from Yunnan in culture and trade activities with New Zealand. With a population of more than 46 million, Yunnan Province is a significant market, whether for trade or for Chinese visitors or students," Bromwich told Xinhua in a phone interview.

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