An 11-day junket to China and Vietnam for Wodonga’s mayor, costing between $6000 and $9000, will be considered by councillors at Monday night’s meeting.
Mayor Anna Speedie has been invited by some of the city’s education providers to join a delegation to the countries to “build upon links with educational institutions and to secure further business opportunities”.
She or other council representatives were invited by Wodonga Federation of Government Schools, Wodonga Institute of TAFE and La Trobe University’s Wodonga campus to visit Weihai, China from March 19-24, then by Wodonga Senior Secondary College to visit Hanoi, Vietnam, from March 24-29.
The trip would cost ratepayers an estimated total of $6430 including economy flights, or about an extra $3000 if the mayor was upgraded to business class.
The costs had not been budgeted for 2017-18.
A report from the council did not formally recommend whether councillors should approve the trip or not, but did list the benefits of sending the mayor to Asia.
Although the trip was originally proposed as only providing opportunities in the education sector, the council stated “there now exists a range of economic development outcomes that are currently being realised in Wodonga, and the opportunity to secure future investment and jobs in our city”.
“Given the importance placed upon the role of mayor by both of these countries in securing and developing city-to-city relationships, it would be appropriate for the mayor to represent council and the city,” the report stated.
Before they vote on the mayor’s Asia junket on Monday, councillors will consider a proposed “international relations policy” for Wodonga.
The council report argued Wodonga faced issues such as sustainability, a changing world economy and security, which had to be addressed at an international level.
“The key focus of economic exchanges is to create employment opportunities including attracting new businesses to the region and facilitating local jobs expansion of locally-based businesses, via investment and trade opportunities,” it stated. “In particular, the role of the mayor in promoting and engaging directly with potential partners cannot be overstated.”
If the international relations policy is adopted, ratepayer-funded overseas travel for councillors would still have to be put before public meetings.
Wodonga Council has anticipated a negative reaction to the proposal to send Cr Speedie overseas for 11 days.
It gave a “B” rating to the likelihood of a negative media profile, which would have “significant” impact and proposed to explain the benefits of the trip for the city.