The admission came during Monday’s Guilin board meeting, where the evergreen advocate of the sister-city programme came under fire from colleagues for his “blind devotion” to the Guilin association.
“I do admire Kevin’s commitment, but I fear he’s become dangerously obsessed,” councillor Margaret Twigg said.
Twigg said she also believed the Guilin relationship to be “outdated and arbitrary”. “The people that vote for me are too thick to know where Guilin is anyway,” she added.
Though admitting the pyjamas in question were a gift from ambassador Zhang Yuanyuan, Watkins stated “I don’t intend to defend my choice of nightwear to council.”
The councillor (pictured) said his devotion to the sister-city programme (1981) was based on “real benefits” afforded the province.
“It doesn’t take Confucian wisdom to see the rewards of such cultural dialogue. Look no further than the Hastings’ Osmanthus Gardens [established to commemorate the relationship’s 15th anniversary]. At the main entrance, visitors to the garden pass through a moongate (see photo), which has been purposely widened by Guilin designers to accommodate fat westerners. I doubt ratepayers are as eager as councillor Twigg to snub such practical compassion.”
In further defence of the ongoing relationship, he also referred to the success of the education and horticultural exchange programmes. “Hastings’ rice paddy owners have Guilin to thank for their existence, as does our fledgling bamboo industry.”
Watkins was also backed by visiting expert Mr Tang Hui from Guangxi Institute of Zoology, who said due to the ongoing educational relationship, China now regards Hawke’s Bay as the world’s foremost authority on panda husbandry.