Hamilton’s relationship with Ieper (Ypres) has a new chapter following a special inauguration event held in the famous Belgian city at the weekend.
Ieper dignitaries hosted Hamilton Mayor Andrew King in a sod-turning event inaugurating Ieper’s new Hamilton Park.
The new park in Ieper will carry Hamilton’s name in a reciprocation of Hamilton City Council’s development of the Ieper Garden at Memorial Park, adjacent to the Waikato River.
Mayor King planted New Zealand native trees at Hamilton Park, alongside the Mayor of Ieper Jan Durez.
“Hamilton and Ieper have a strong official relationship which now stretches back more than a decade,” says Mayor King.
“To be part of a new chapter of that shared history is a very special moment for me, as the current Mayor of Hamilton, and as a proud Hamiltonian,” he says.
“We are very grateful to generations of Ieper residents and officials who have so carefully cared for our soldiers here in their final resting place.”
The relationship between the two cities stems from a shared history in the First World War, when a contingent of New Zealanders – including the Hamilton Light Horse Brigade – served in battle in the area around Ieper.
While in Ieper, Mayor King and Ieper leaders advanced discussions on updating the collaborative agreement between the two cities. This will be finalised in coming months. The visit has also included productive discussions on opportunities for collaboration involving Waikato Museum, tourism and Ieper’s Last Post Association.
Mayor King’s official visit to Ieper also coincided with the 90th anniversary of the Last Post Association, which manages the nightly playing of The Last Post at Ieper’s famous Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing. The Menin Gate commemorates the sacrifice of British and Commonwealth soldiers during the First World War.
The formal relationship between Hamilton and Ieper has been fostered by former Councillor Peter Bos. Delegations from both cities have made reciprocal visits on several occasions since 2006, and in 2013 a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by former Hamilton Mayor Julie Hardaker and former Ieper Mayor Luc Dehaene.
Mayor King is on a private overseas holiday and combined his official duties at Ieper into part of his trip. His trip to Ieper is at no cost to the city’s ratepayers.