Our relationship with Ieper

Hamilton and Ieper share a deep and special connection as friendship cities, rooted in shared history, values, resilience, and the enduring spirit of remembrance.

While our shared history binds us, we also have many mutual areas of interest. As trading nations with an international outlook, Belgium and New Zealand are like-minded on many global issues. At a city level, we both take pride in being environmentally conscious, share a passion for cycling, and offer a vibrant culture of events and hospitality. Tourism, technology, and sustainability are key sectors that play pivotal roles in our economies.

The ties between Hamilton and Ieper were initially forged in 2006, by former Councillor, Peter Bos, in his role as Chair of the Hamilton Ieper Project Trust, with support from Hamilton City Council and sponsors. In 2007, a Menin Gate replica was built in Hamilton.

In recognition of the friendship between Ieper and Hamilton, and the care and commitment shown to our fallen by the people of Flanders and Belgium, the Hamilton Ieper Project Trust was established in 2014, to raise funds for an Ieper memorial garden in Hamilton’s Memorial Park. In 2015, stage one of Ieper Memorial Garden was completed and unveiled by Mayor Julie Hardaker, Belgian Honorary Consul Dr Lisbeth Jacobs and Councillor Peter Bos, in 2015. The memorial was completed in 2017 and unveiled on Armistice Day, by Mayor Andrew King, Corporal Willie Apiata, Councillor Peter Bos and local MP, David Bennett.

In 2013, a formal special relationship was recognised through a Memorandum of Understanding.

In 2024, Mayor Paula Southgate unveiled two magnificent gateways for Ieper’s Hamilton Park on Anzac Day, on behalf of Hamilton city to the citizens of Ieper, to recognise their enduring service to our fallen. Crafted and generously donated by Longveld and freighted by Porter Group, the panels feature two of our city’s treasures (taonga)– the tuuii and the koowhai. Longveld said they wanted Ieper citizens to have something that represented what was iconically local to Hamilton Kirikiriroa New Zealand, and kiwi visitors to be able to instantly recognise that the panels were connected to home. So they chose the kowhai and tui symbols that are such an integral part of the banks of the Waikato River (te Awa o Waikato), flowing through our city. The New Zealand tui bird, symbolises strength and guardianship, encapsulating the essence of our fallen servicemen, and our Belgian friends who take care of them. Tui birds are also known for their unique ability to sing together in harmony, which is fitting for the relationship between Ieper and Hamilton.

Mayor Southgate also gifted a video to the people of Ieper, which stars young children from Knighton Normal School, with their voices of thanks. It also includes Peter Bos, Chairman of the Hamilton Ieper Project Trust, Todd Smith of the Hamilton City Brass band and two of our dedicated cadets. The videos can be found below. Anyone can access these when visiting Ieper’s Hamilton park, by scanning the QR code on the information sign.

Anzac Day 2024 with Flemish subtitles

Ieper Memorial

Take A Look


In Flanders Fields - Flemish subtitles

Lieutenant Colonel Olly Te Ua and Mayor Paula Southgate - Flemish subtitles

Peter Bos - Founding Chairman of the Hamilton Ieper Project Trust - Flemish subtitles

Cadets - Flemish subtitles

Knighton Normal School Students - Flemish subtitles

Remembering World War I

Ieper was a strategic landmark for the British army in World War I, as it blocked the German army’s route along the Belgian and French coast.

The relationship between Hamilton and Ieper stretches back to World War One, when a large contingent of New Zealanders – including the Hamilton Light Horse Brigade – fought as part of a Commonwealth force in the area around Ieper.

New Zealand's participation in World War I is still commemorated with warmth in Belgium and this lies at the heart of the relationship between our two countries. Between 1917 and 1918, around 5,000 New Zealand servicemen were killed in battles at Belgium’s Flanders fields, a huge loss to a country of little over a million people at the time. More than 4,600 of these servicemen are buried in around 80 cemeteries in Belgium, including many from Hamilton and the Waikato region.

The city of Ieper showed great care to New Zealand soldiers during this time, and continues to devotedly look after the graves of New Zealand’s fallen.

Hamilton city deeply appreciates the care and commitment shown to our fallen by the people of Flanders and Belgium, and by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Recent official visits

New Zealand to Belgium

  • 2024: Hamilton Mayor, Paula Southgate, and Lieutenant Colonel, Olly Te Ua, visited Ieper to represent Hamilton City at Anzac Day services, to unveil two magnificent gateways for Ieper’s Hamilton Park on Anzac Day. These were generously crafted and donated by Longveld and freighted by Porter Group. Mayor Paula also bestowed honorary citizenship on Ieper buglers, Rik Vanderkerckhove and Raf Decombel, who have played a critical role in fostering the Hamilton-Ieper relationship, including visiting Hamilton numerous times to play the last post at our Anzac and civic ceremonies.
  • 2018: Hamilton Mayor, Andrew King, and Hamilton City Council General Manager of Community, Lance Vervoort, visited Ieper for the opening of their new Hamilton Park.
  • 2008: Councillor and Chair of the Hamilton Ieper Project Trust, Peter Bos, visited Ieper to represent Hamilton City Council at Anzac Day services. Mr Bos read The Ode under the Menin Gate.

Belgium to New Zealand

  • 2018: Ieper Mayor, Luc Dehaene, visited Hamilton to commemorate Armistice Day and bury a time capsule at the Ieper Garden. It was attended by Hamilton Mayor, Andrew King, Lt Col Laurie Pilling, a Hamilton Ieper Project Trustee and Peter Bos, Chair of the Ieper Project Trust.
  • 2013: Ieper Mayor, Luc Dehaene, visited Hamilton to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with Hamilton Mayor, Julie Hardaker. At the same ceremony, the position of Chairman of the Last Post Association was given Honorary Citizenship of the City of Hamilton.
  • 2012: Deputy Mayor of Ieper, Fran Lignel and bugler Raf Decombel, visited Hamilton to attend the Anzac Dawn and civic ceremonies. The visit included a meeting with the Māori King, accompanied by Deputy Mayor of Hamilton, Gordon Chesterman.
  • 2011: Ieper Mayor, Luc Dehaene was hosted by the Hamilton Ieper Project Trust Chair, Peter Bos, and welcomed to the city by Hamilton City Council.
  • November 2010: Ieper Mayor, Luc Dehaene, and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission presented a granite headstone to Hamilton City Council on Armistice Day, for Hamilton’s Ieper Memorial Garden
  • 2009: Ieper Mayor, Luc Dehaene, visited Hamilton and Honorary Citizenship was bestowed on the Mayor, in recognition of Ieper city’s ongoing care of New Zealand soldiers who fell in Flanders fields.
  • 2007: Ieper Mayor, Luc Dehaene, President of the Last Post Association, Benoit Mottrie, and buglers Rik Vanderkerckhove and Raf Decombel, visited Hamilton for Anzac Day. The image of the Menin Gate was projected in large scale to mark the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele.
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Last updated 23 April 2024