Rotorua has signed an agreement with the fastest growing district in China's Nanjing province to work towards a closer economic relationship.
The Economically Friendly Cities Agreement was signed at Rotorua District Council chambers yesterday by Rotorua Mayor Kevin Winters and Jiangning District Mayor Chen Fa Xi.
Winters said Rotorua already had strong links to Nanjing, but this agreement would take that relationship to the next level and pave the way for greater co-operation in tourism, natural spa development, education and other industries.
"Now we want to develop economic and educational opportunities for our students.
"A couple of years ago, New Zealand signed a Free Trade Agreement with China and we want to take that relationship to a more personal level to exchange cultures and business opportunities between Rotorua, Nanjing and Jiangning."
He also spoke of building a stronger relationship with Auckland to make it easier for Chinese visitors to access Rotorua via the China Southern Airline link.
Mayor Chen spoke about his district - home to 1.15 million people - saying it was one of the fastest growing districts in China, with a focus on high-tech manufacturing.
"This is a strong foundation for our friendship. It is a win-win situation."
Nanjing Municipal People's Government vice secretary general Zhao Jingfu also spoke at the signing, talking about his province of 7.9 million people, just 300km from China's economic powerhouse of Shanghai.
The province has 60 colleges and universities turning out about 20,000 graduates a year and educational exchanges at tertiary level is one area the agreement is focused on.
"This is a very strong basis for future co-operation and friendship. The future is full of potential."
Rotorua already has strong ties to the province through a friendship city agreement and the Rotorua Town development by Nanjing Moon Building Company. Moon's owner, Li Shun Xiang, was also part of the delegation from China for yesterday's signing ceremony.
Nanjing Mayor Ji Jianye was to have joined the signing, but had to return to China earlier in the week.
Destination Rotorua Marketing general manager Oscar Nathan said the strong focus on tourism and geothermal resources in both centres would create opportunities, which are being developed.
Rotorua District Council economic and regulatory services group manager Mark Rawson said the agreement would also open doors for direct investment from both districts.