Monday, 27 April 2009

BELGIAN MAYOR TRAVELS TO THE “UTTERMOST ENDS OF THE EARTH” TO COMMEMORATE NEW ZEALAND SACRIFICE ON HIS SOIL

The Mayors of two districts, a world apart, will come together for the first time this ANZAC Day to commemorate the sacrifice of New Zealand soldiers in Flanders fields.

Dirk Cardoen, Mayor of Zonnebeke-Passendale – where one of the most devastating conflicts of the first world war was fought – is travelling to the “uttermost ends of the earth”, where the kiwi soldiers came from so long ago to fight for his country’s freedom, to honour a rekindled bond of friendship.

The districts of Zonnebeke and Waimakariri, in North Canterbury, formally twinned during the 90th commemorations of the Battle of Passchendaele, in 2007. The arrangement is one of only the second entered into between our two countries - the other is between Messines and Featherston.

Waimakariri District Mayor, Ron Keating acknowledges the significance of this first official visit, which will see the two Mayors jointly launch the touring exhibition Passchendaele: The Belgians Have Not Forgotten, in Christchurch on April 21st.

“While the 90th anniversary of that battle was the trigger that revived the linkage between our communities, this visit, to share in these special moments with us, clearly illustrates the value Zonnebeke places on our newfound friendship.”

The Waimakariri and Zonnebeke districts have a similar urban/rural and geographic and demographic mix.

But it was ultimately the sacrifices made by the young men of the district during the Passchendaele campaign that was the deciding factor in Zonnebeke extending the invitation to twin with Waimakariri.

Zonnebeke Mayor Dirk Cardoen says there is no mistaking the fact the two communities remain inextricably linked with each other.

“Our historically based bond is strong and through this twinning the municipality of Zonnebeke hopes to grow an enhanced awareness of the futility of war for future generations.

“We are convinced the twinning is the best assurance the sacrifice of your young men will be remembered.”

The Zonnebeke Municipality has been instrumental in facilitating the exhibition Passchendaele: The Belgians Have Not Forgotten, developed by the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917.

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