The idea of a sister city relationship was first approached in 1994 when then Rotorua District Council Director of Community Services Greg Fraser meet Lake Macquarie's Bill Hanley at the New Zealand Sister Cities Convention in Timaru.
A number of discussions took place during the mid 1990s and in September 1997 Mayor John Kilpatrick led a delegation of more than 30 people to Rotorua where a formal agreement was signed.
|Rotorua mayor Grahame Hall and Lake Macquarie mayor John Kilpatrick sign formal sister city agreement. Source: Daily Post, Wednesday 24 September 1997, p. 2|
The official signing ceremony also included a powhiri and dinner. Māori cultural group Ngati Rangiwewehi performed and there was a special guest appearance by Rotorua's own Tina Turner, aka Bea Yates.
Mr Kilpatrick was presented with a weaving created at the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute. It was the last design by Emily Schuster, who had recently passed away.
|Rotorua deputy mayor Johnny Lepper and John Kilpatrick hongi during the official ceremony. Source: Weekender, Friday 26 September 1997, p. 14|
In November Grahame Hall and mayoress Sandy Hall led a 34-strong delegation to Lake Macquarie for a week-long visit where a reciprocal signing took place. The delegation included Deputy Mayor Johnny Lepper, Councillors Mita Mohi, Trevor Maxwell, Ben Benfield, Knocker Dean and Annie Bowie, as well as a group of Rotorua business and educational community representatives.
The two councils gifted each other paintings of local scenes. Rotorua was given a painting of Lake Macquarie and Rotorua gave Lake Macquarie a painting of the Rotorua Musuem of Art and History building.
|Grahame Hall with a painting gifted to Rotorua from Lake Macquarie. Source: Daily Post, Tuesday 18 November 1997, p. 2|
In February 1999 Grahame and Sandy Hall attended the official opening of Lake Macquarie's $6.5 million dollar athletic track and gymnasium. This was the first official function Hall attended since the sister city agreement was signed.
Over the years there have been numerous official and unofficial (dignitaries visiting while on holiday) visits between the two cities, including several sporting exchanges with runners in relay, marathon and half marathon events, particularly at high school level.
|Glass plate presented to Rotorua District Council on the signing of the sister city agreement on 23 September 1997.|
This blog post was written by Graeme, with thanks to the Daily Post and the Rotorua Lakes Council.