A HELPING hand from supporters in Japan has given Billabong Zoo's koala breeding centre a $10,000 boost.
Port Macquarie-Hastings mayor Peta Pinson and members of the Handa Sister City Working Group presented the donation on behalf of the citizens of Handa to zoo owner Mark Stone on May 27.
Handa City Council and Port Macquarie-Hastings Council became sister cities in 1990 with the signing of an agreement by the then Mayor of Port Macquarie-Hastings Counci, Robert Woodland, and the then mayor of Handa City Council, Mr Koichi Yamadaand.
Over the past 30 years many cultural, civic and educational visits have taken place between the two regions.
In late 2019 and early 2020, the citizens of Handa witnessed the region's bushfires and the devastation this had on local wildlife and wanted to help.
As a result, they undertook a range of fundraising efforts to assist Billabong Zoo's koala breeding program. Donations came from across the community including the Handa Junior Brass Band, local businesses and school.
Founding member of the Handa Sister City Working Group Bruce Hardy said the donation "comes from the heart of their community".
Each year as part of the Sister City Agreement students and teachers from Handa Higashi High School travel to spend five days in the Port Macquarie-Hastings region. To date, over 320 students have visited and been hosted by members of the local community.
Other highlights of the relationship include biannual cultural tours to Handa by the Hastings Koala Orchestra, and reciprocally, the Handa Junior Brass Band to the Port Macquarie-Hastings and the establishment of a trade relationship by Cassegrain Winery and Japan Rail, which has resulted in their wine being served on Bullet Train services in Japan.
The Sister City Relationship is supported by the Port Macquarie-Hastings Council Handa Sister City Working Group, which comprises passionate community members who strive to ensure the success and longevity of the relationship.