Verdict time for Wangaratta Council administrator’s China travels

KEEN OBSERVERS: Wangaratta Council acting chief executive Alan Clark and administrators Ailsa Fox and Irene Grant at the recent candidates' election forum. Picture: MARK JESSER

KEEN OBSERVERS: Wangaratta Council acting chief executive Alan Clark and administrators Ailsa Fox and Irene Grant at the recent candidates' election forum. Picture: MARK JESSER

A CONTENTIOUS trip to China by Wangaratta administrator Ailsa Fox has been declared a success by the council.

Ms Fox has yet to speak publicly about her role with the delegation of Victorian government and council representatives, which traveled to the Jiangsu Province last month.

Her ability to make statements on behalf of the council has been limited during the election period in the lead up to the October 22 vote.

But Ms Fox is set to break her silence at Tuesday evening’s council meeting.

A report in the meeting agenda said the six-day trip was a positive step in re-establishing the fractured relationship between Wangaratta and China.

“Council sees this relationship as a real opportunity to attract Chinese investment and to help facilitate the export of local produce,” the report stated.

“The long-term aim of this relationship is to improve the economic opportunities between our region and Jiangsu.

“It is not expected that significant gains will be made in the short term, but rather over the long term as a result consistent and sustained engagement.”

The report did not include any personal comments from Ms Fox about what she gained from the experience.

The Victorian government contributed $2000 each towards the costs of Ms Fox and acting Wangaratta chief executive Alan Clark, who joined her on the trip.

Ms Fox paid any extra costs herself, but the council expected to contribute between $1000 and $1500 for Mr Clark’s share.

The trip drew criticism from council election candidates such as Lauren McCully and Greg Mirabella when it was announced just weeks before the pair was due to leave.

Julian Fidge again raised the issue at a candidates’ forum, saying the council should not be wasteful.

“I’ll look after your money and council be will more efficient,” he said. “You won’t be paying for any trips to China.”

But the council’s report stated “the new mayor should take an active role in relationship building” with a Chinese sister city.

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