Bihoro trip yields ideas

Waipa District Mayor Jim Mylchreest with Bihoro Mayor, Koji Tsuchiya, during the New Zealand delegation’s visit to Cambridge’s sister city.

Among those making up a delegation of 10 who visited Cambridge’s Japanese sister city Bihoro earlier this month was Waipa District Mayor Jim Mylchreest, who has returned with a mixed bag of ideas.

This was the Mayor’s first visit to the Japanese city of around 20,000, and one which marked the 20th anniversary of the signing of the sister-city agreement.  The New Zealand group also attended commemorations marking the 130th anniversary of the founding of Bihoro.

Mr Mylchreest said he found it the exchange of ideas with local government officials in Japan to be particularly interesting from a local government perspective, and referenced the difference between Japanese and New Zealand systems in terms of service provision.

Mr Mylchreest said Bihoro had a comprehensively-equipped hospital with around 100 beds for its residents, with services delivered at local level. It was equipped with a CT scanner and operating rooms, it provided a range of other health services such as geriatric care, and general practitioners worked out of the hospital.

“Those with specific conditions or ailments are sent elsewhere; it is a very efficient system. It could be a model we should look at copying.

“It was also interesting to see how many activities which would be funded here through the rates take are funded over there by central government.  Take the Cambridge pool development for example; were we in Bihoro, 80 percent of the cost would be funded by central government.”

This year’s group of 10 included Mr Mylchreest and his wife Robyn; Deputy Mayor Grahame Webber; Councillor Elwyn Andree-Wiltens; Council’s Te Takawaenga Chuck Davis and his wife Carol Thomas; Bihoro Sister City committee member Brent Nielsen; Robyn Maxwell, widow of Murray Maxwell who established the sister city agreement; translator Ryu Imahashi; and Cambridge Community Board member Julie Epps.

The Waipa District Council funded Mr Mylchreest and Chuck Davis – the others funded the trip themselves.

Brent Nielsen said the sister relationship that had grown from a relationship built between Professor Masahara Yamaki and Waipa District Council employee, the late Murray Maxwell, had blossomed over the past two decades. He said he was surprised to have met over 100 people at the 20th anniversary celebrations “who have briefly traded towns, including high school students, townspeople and council staff”.

“The people of Bihoro value the sister city relationship immensely,” he said.

Julie Epps said delegation members were home-hosted during the visit.  The group was taken on tours around Bihoro, into schools, hospitals, factories and other facilities.  They had a meeting with the indigenous people of the area – the Ainu – and took part in a short ceremony at Bihoro’s memorial to Murray Maxwell.

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