New deal could see giant panda sanctuary
MAYOR Tom Tate wants to found a koala sanctuary in the Gold Coast newest sister city in the hopes of one day bringing pandas to the Glitter Strip.
Cr Tate is in China where he is signing a sister city agreement with Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province after five years of trade missions and talks.
The deal allows for greater economic trade with the city as well as educational, medical and cultural exchanges.
The Mayor is also hoping to take the relationship to the next level with Chengdu Mayor Luo Qiang.
"The next idea the mayor of Chengdu and I will discuss is an idea of gifting a koala sanctuary and I will speak to him about the giant panda sanctuary they have there.
"As a sign of friendship it would be wonderful to be able to have a koala sanctuary next to the giant pandas. It shows the friendship between the cities.
"This will generate more Chinese visitors to the Gold Coast and more Australian visitors to Chengdu because it is the home of the pandas.
"Who knows, maybe one day when the time is right we might have a giant panda sanctuary here."
Cr Tate has long wanted to secure pandas for the Gold Coast. Discussions were held in late 2014 but stalled over the cost, understood at the time to be more than $1 million.
The city of Chengdu is home to one of the world's premier panda breeding grounds, the Chengdu Panda Base. It started with six giant pandas in 1987 and has been pivotal in helping to almost double the number of bears alive in the wild today.
Cr Tate flew out of Australia to Chengdu on May 14 with a large delegation, including 14 representatives from the Health and Knowledge Precinct, 18 from Study Gold Coast, five from Destination Gold Coast and two from Gold Coast Airport.
It comes just weeks after Mr Qiang brought his own delegation to the city for the giant SportsAccord conference this month.
After formalising the agreement, Cr Tate said: "Becoming sister cities has been a work in progress over the past five years.
"I'm so pleased to have secured this agreement for the Gold Coast with one of China's economic powerhouse cities.
"I'm excited at the economic and cultural opportunities the Gold Coast will gain from being sister cities with Chengdu, but none more so than in the areas of education, health, medical, research and tourism," Cr Tate said.
"International students contribute millions of dollars to our local economy each year so tapping into Chengdu's 14 million population has enormous potential for attracting future students to come and study on the Gold Coast."