WARRNAMBOOL City Council has voted to snub its Japanese sister city for the 20th anniversary of the international relationship.
A motion to send mayor Michael Neoh and council chief executive Bruce Anson to Miura for less than a week at the end of October was defeated when councillors Peter Hulin, Peter Sycopoulis and Brian Kelson voted against it.
Cr Neoh was excused from voting due to a conflict of interest and Cr Kylie Gaston was absent, leaving councillors Jacinta Ermacora and Rob Askew to vote unsuccessfully in favour of supporting the trip.
The trip was planned as a reciprocal visit following the Miura mayor’s trip to Warrnambool last year.
Mr Anson conceded the snub was “pretty embarrassing” and would require a full explanation to Miura council and some rebuilding of the relationship.
It would have involved attending a festival that celebrates Miura’s port and fishermen, as well as school visits.
Also on the agenda were meetings with members of the Miura Warrnambool Association, teachers and students who have visited Warrnambool, Miura mayor Hideo Yoshida and senior officials to discuss ways of further developing the relationship.
Cr Hulin said “spending $4000 for the mayor and chief executive doesn’t stack up”, adding that he couldn’t see any value in the trip.
“If they were going to (come back and) tell us about the ports or the CBDs or what type of trees they plant, those sort of things, it might make sense,” Cr Hulin said.
Cr Kelson agreed, saying the visit “gives the wrong vibe”.
“In this tight economic period we find ourselves in ... if the people of Warrnambool read the mayor and the chief executive are going to have a great time at a festival, it would go over like the Hindenburg,” Cr Kelson said.
Cr Askew said Cr Hulin and Cr Kelson were “short-sighted”, saying there had been educational and cultural benefits for many students and residents since the Miura relationship began.
“I believe this is (a) very shortsighted (vote) by the other councillors,” he said.
“The younger generation has been getting a lot of value (out of the relationship) and as the young people grow up that link will be even stronger.”
Mr Anson said Cr Ermacora had “indicated she was actively considering a rescission of motion”, which would give the council the opportunity to reconsider its decision.
“My personal view is that it’s pretty embarrassing,” Mr Anson said of the snub.
“Miura was our first foray into sister city relationships with foreign (cities) and we picked that up on the basis of developing an understanding of the culture ... and starting to build international relationships.”
He estimated that more than 500 students from Warrnambool had visited Miura over the past 20 years and vice versa.
“It gives the council and the residents an insight into how other parts of the world work,” he said, adding that the Miura friendship had “enabled council to think about approaches that are somewhat different”.