Thu, 13 Jun 2024



style="text-transform: uppercase;">Kota Kinabalu: Mutual trust generated since a unique "friendship city" pact signed last year has infused confidence among the business communities of Kota Kinabalu and Western Australia's Rockingham city, said Mayor Barry Sammels, Thursday."We have had many discussions and identified many opportunities on both sides," said Barry of the historic Memorandum of Understanding with his counterpart Datuk Iliyas Ibrahim, at the Rockingham City Hall last November 17.

Sammels is leading a business delegation here for the KK City Day celebration, on invitation by Iliyas .

Among them include Justin Smith, President of Rockingham City Chamber of Commerce and Verghese Jacob, Regional Director of Kuala Lumpur-based Western Australian Trade Office. "We have certainly gained a lot of momentum over a short period of time," Sammels said, citing some industries getting very close to working with KK.

"One thing I would like to see is a direct flight between Perth and KK.

Something we might be able to push from our end," he said, predicting that the hospitality industry here is going to "grow and grow." As for KK, Sammels said there has been a lot more development taking place since his last visit and believes the reasonable property prices should attract some Australians to invest here as well.

His coastal city of 90,000 is about 45 minutes' drive south of Perth and reckons it can learn from the resort city idea from Kota Kinabalu .

Asked what aspects of tourism KK can contribute, Sammels said:

"Rockingham can probably explore how to improve on our short term accommodation. We attract a lot of day trippers (to Rockingham) but lack short term accommodation." Conversely, he said KK may learn from Rockingham how to integrate nearly 4,000 naval personnel into its community, since a large Malaysian naval presence is expected in Sepanggar Bay 5 to 10 years from now.

The Sterling Naval base on an island off Rockingham is home to about 70pc of the Royal Australian Navy.

Sammels said the 'friendship city pact' sprang from official and industry interests looking for opportunities in all sorts of areas, citing the many similarities in terms of time zone, close geographic proximity and naval base development.

Sammels said Rockingham is 110 years old and became a city in 1998, two years before KK did. "We have grown and developed and becoming more and more multi-cultural with the newcomers ranging from South Africans to New Zealanders and Zimbabweans.

"We have Malaysians. I wouldn't say a lot but the more I am getting involved in this friendship relations, the more Malaysians I am meeting that own properties in Perth and some have settled in Rockingham as well."

He said the Rockingham people profile is that of 32-year-olds on average, i.e. young families who see opportunities in employment with a good lifestyle and at a reasonable price.

Rockingham has been experiencing 6pc growth for several years and he expects property demand to rise even more considering that Perth had already overtaken Sydney in property values.

Another attraction besides proximity to Perth is the tendency for Australians to live closer to the coast and industries.

Meanwhile, Justin Smith said the Rockingham side had been helping out with the navy in terms of "wise management" and a few other areas, since the signing of the friendship city pact. The Chamber certainly welcomes more opportunities for trade for its members, both large and small, he said.

Varghese Jacob said the "friendship city agreement" is a "platform" which the Western Australian Trade Office is supporting "so that businesses underneath can flow."

"Basically, we are interested to promote trade and investment from Western Australia and we have 14 such overseas services throughout the world especially in Asia such as China, Indonesia, Thailand, Dubai, UK, Los Angeles," he said.


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