Taranaki is the Texas of New Zealand

Residents of New Plymouth are suggesting Austin, Texas, become their next sister city. Taranaki-raised Josie Adams compares the two.

New Plymouth, the nipple of the North Island, has two sister cities: Mishima (Japan) and Kunming (China). This is apparently not enough, and the city is looking to add the clout of an American to its family. Barbecue tycoon Ash Peters has started a campaign to connect New Plymouth and the international musical hub of Austin, Texas.

Peters’ reasoning is based almost entirely on smoky-flavoured meat, which is allegedly a really big deal to New Plymouth residents. A survey of 700 people revealed that over 97% of residents love barbecued food. Research from overseas shows this is true of almost every American state, but Texas has much more in common with Taranaki than just its culinary delights. Peters, who has travelled between New Plymouth and Austin many times in the pursuit of perfectly charred flesh, has noticed that as well as their grill skills, both cities love “their arts, the outdoors and being right next to the water.”

Side-by-side comparison of New Plymouth and Austin’s waterways. Photos: Google

New Plymouth is the bustling heart of Taranaki, New Zealand’s Texas. Both regions are flush with oil, stunning natural landscapes, and recovering racists – a match made in settler heaven. Thanks in part to the cash injections from their respective oil and gas industries, both New Plymouth and Austin have become well-known for their flourishing music and art scenes.

Growing up in New Plymouth, I was raised on cows, guitars, and nitrous oxide, but there are many other ways Austin looks like a second home. New Plymouth has WOMAD and monster trucks. Austin has SXSW and the American Grand Prix. Both cities like to yee-haw into tornadoes.

It’s a no-brainer. Peters started a Change.org petition to get the cities officially linked, but only 13 signatures in, the New Plymouth mayor was ready to lend his full support, saying the idea had “some merit”. “The opportunity for trade is exciting,” said mayor Neil Holdom, before going on to list the different food items that could be traded with the city of almost a million people. “There’s not a lot of vegans over there, from what I can see,” he told Newshub. “[It] does sound like something that would support our long term economic growth.”

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Holdom is already thinking about ways the two cities could work together, saying that Peters himself is a “fantastic diplomat for Taranaki.” If there’s enough interest from both the citizens of New Plymouth and Austin, the proposal could go ahead. The U.S. Embassy in Wellington was unwilling to comment on the proposition, and, I suspect, doesn’t care about it.

Could barbecue be the new oil? (Photo: vxla/CC BY-2.0)

A partnership between the cities could help some of Taranaki’s flailing geologists, who might get better access to the highly frackable lands of Texas. In support of the future economy, Holdom will be inviting Austin mayor Stephen Adler to New Plymouth’s next Americarna festival to compare notes on muscle cars and the art of barbecue. “Good relationships are often built slaving over a hot barbecue in summer,” he said.

Unfortunately, Austin and New Plymouth are in different hemispheres and will never be able to share a Skype summer hoe-down.


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