TWO former Warrnambool mayors and a former councillor have described the city council’s 20th anniversary snub of sister city Miura as “an insult” and “a slap in the face”.
Glenys Phillpot said she was horrified and appalled by the move of councillors Peter Hulin, Peter Sycopoulis and Brian Kelson to reject an invitation for mayor Michael Neoh and chief executive Bruce Anson to visit the Japanese city to recognise 20 years of relations with Warrnambool.
David Atkinson backed Ms Phillpot’s sentiments, labelling the vote by the three councillors as “narrow-minded”, while former councillor and prominent businessman Graeme Rodger blasted the vote as “disgraceful”.
Mr Rodger, who was one of the Warrnambool representatives who travelled to Miura to sign the original sister city agreement two decades ago, urged the councillors to reconsider their stance against sending the mayor and chief executive to Miura at a cost of $4000.
He said the expense was a tiny amount in the grand scheme of things.
“All the people in Warrnambool, every person, benefits directly or indirectly from this relationship ... (and) our youth and city will benefit in the future from this type of relationship,” he said.
“Anyone who believes we’re not going to be having an association with Japan, China and Malaysia in the future is not living in the real world.
“If you don’t have an arrangement like this today, you won’t see the results tomorrow.
“Warrnambool thrives on tourism and this type of liaison can only foster and feed tourism.
“It’s too late now to say we’re not going to do this. If we don’t send a representative and the mayor to celebrate (the 20th anniversary), we might as well pack up the trucks and leave it.
“(Crs Hulin, Sycopoulis and Kelson) need to reconsider. I’m concerned with their attitude. I’m appalled. It’s disgraceful.”
Mr Atkinson, another signatory of the original agreement 20 years ago, said he didn’t agree with Crs Hulin and Kelson’s assertions that it was a waste of money with little gain.
“It’s a bit narrow-minded to deny (our city’s representatives) the opportunity to attend the 20th anniversary of the signing,” he said.
“I think it’s extremely rude.
“We hosted the mayor and various people 12 months ago. Now we have an opportunity to go back and thank them in their own homes.
“It’s been a close relationship on various levels — on a business level, on a government level and on a personal level.
“I have no doubt that there have been Japanese people visit Warrnambool (as tourists) because of that relationship.
“The name of Warrnambool has been spread right around the Miura region — the Miura people are very prominent in the way they advertise Warrnambool.
“Many Japanese people travelling to Australia have Warrnambool in the back of their mind and have made the effort to come here.
“It’s rather a slap in the face that we’re not going to send two people over there to pay our respects.
“As a ratepayer, (the council) has my full support to spend a few dollars to do that.”
Mr Atkinson said that without the Miura relationship, Warrnambool would not have progressed as effectively with its Changchun relationship, and said it would be rude to dismiss the bond with Miura.
Ms Phillpot, who represented Warrnambool in Miura during her time as mayor, also blasted the attitudes of Crs Hulin, Sycopoulis and Kelson.
“I’m appalled by it — it’s an insult to the relationship that’s been built with Miura over 20 years,” she said.
“It’s broadened our outlook.
‘‘There’s been economic benefits. We’ve looked at the way they do things.
‘‘The tourism benefits have been quite significant.
“I’m horrified to think Warrnambool would lose face as they will do if the trip doesn’t go ahead.
‘‘I’m so horrified I’m prepared to provide money to the trip so it could go ahead.
‘‘It’s an insult to Miura.
“The suggestion that it’s a pleasure trip is just not correct.
‘‘I know when I was there, we worked very hard to promote Warrnambool and this region.”