In the 36 years of the relationship, formalised in 1982, no Palmerston North mayor has visited Missoula.
The delegation, which has support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, leaves on Sunday October 7 for the seven-day visit.
Mayor Smith will be accompanied by Associate Professor Hone Morris from Massey University’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Wiremu and Trieste Te Awe Awe from Rangitāne, and the Palmerston North City Council’s International Relations Manager Toni Grace. Mayoress Michelle Smith will be travelling at her own expense.
Mrs Grace said the Mayor will sign a letter of intent to strengthen the accord between the cities, with his long-serving Missoula counterpart, Mayor John Engen.
“As river-side university cities of comparable size and sectors, Palmerston North and Missoula have many things in common, which makes the relationship ripe for collaboration and exchange.”
She said anyone who watched Missoula’s There’s This Place promotional video on YouTube couldn’t help but note the similarities between the cities.
“It’s also about backing Massey University in their relationship with the University of Montana. Massey University has a student exchange MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) with the University of Montana and will look to explore new avenues of academic connection.”
Massey’s Professor Morris will also share iwi Manawatū River restoration projects with Native American tribal groups.
Members of the Palmerston North delegation would be billeted in Missoula with local families.
Mrs Grace said the cities were both founded at a similar period during the 19th century with today’s growth underpinned by agriculture, logistics, and business support, along with science and research-based economies.
“Missoula’s main industries closely mirror our own, and like Palmerston North, Missoula is also a nationally recognised centre for the arts.”
The delegation would visit educational and arts facilities, science and environmental research institutes, business, economic development and tourism agencies, and Native American reservations. Also on the itinerary is a trip to the Governor’s office in the Montana State Capital, Helena - a two-hour drive away.
The party will also attend Missoula’s New Zealand Day festivities, held annually in honour of the Palmerston North relationship. The event includes a rugby match, New Zealand film screening, and a gathering with ex-pat Kiwis living in Missoula.
In 2004, the American city’s Mayor Mike Kadas visited Palmerston North with a business delegation from the Montana World Trade Centre.
In 2010, Palmerston North Deputy Mayor John Hornblow made an official visit accompanied by the Te Awe Awes. The Rangitāne couple established connections with Native American peoples of the Salish Kootenai Tribes, and are keen to further those relationships.
In July last year, Mayor Smith led a 12-person business delegation to Palmerston North’s other sister city, Guiyang in China. In March 2019, Palmerston North is hosting the national Sister City New Zealand Conference to which representatives from Missoula, Guiyang and other international partner cities have been invited.