IN what’s shaping up to be another battle of the factions, Warrnambool City Council will vote again on the contentious issue of paying $4000 for the mayor and chief executive to attend sister-city celebrations in Miura, Japan.
Six weeks after a controversial 3-2 vote to refuse the payment, former mayor Cr Jacinta Ermacora has lodged a notice of motion for this Monday night to reverse the decision and settle troubled diplomatic waters.
Following the vote mayor Michael Neoh and chief executive Bruce Anson arranged to finance travelling expenses themselves for 20th anniversary celebrations of the Miura-Warrnambool link with plans to stay from October 24 to 27.
Monday night’s notice of motion is to reimburse them up to $4000 for costs associated with the official visit.
At the September 9 meeting Cr Kylie Gaston was absent on leave and Cr Neoh left the council chamber because of his declared interest in the issue.
Voting numbers will be different this Monday with Cr Gaston back at the table and likely to support the move along with Cr Rob Askew while councillors Peter Hulin, Brian Kelson and Peter Sycopoulis will be unlikely to alter their opposition.
Cr Ermacora, who was mayor when a Miura official delegation visited Warrnambool in August last year for part-one of the anniversary celebrations, said her motion was to reaffirm commitment to the sister city relationship.
She said a wide cross-section of the local community had expressed disappointment at the September 9 vote and valued the international relationship.
“I was surprised at the community strength of feeling,” Cr Ermacora told The Standard.
“The refusal decision was an embarrassment for Warrnambool.”
Cr Ermacora said the Miura delegation to last year’s official ceremony in the Warrnambool Japanese gardens conveyed a sense of pride in the link.
“It was a terrific reminder of how people support the relationship, from schools in Warrnambool and students from Miura who visit every year, to former mayors and councillors and community members who did the groundwork,” she said.
Her motion on Monday night refers to an allocation in this year’s council budget for the trip and the need to honour a reciprocal invitation from Miura.
It reads: “That the council contact Miura City to inform them of our commitment to the relationship and apologise for any concern caused.
“That council express a note of thanks to the community organisations, schools and individuals across our city who have expressed support for our sister-city relationship with Miura.”
Cr Kelson told The Standard yesterday he was surprised that Cr Ermacora was absent at this week’s council briefing meeting when her notice of motion was lodged.
“I don’t know how I’ll vote — it should have been discussed and debated in committee before going to an open council,” he said.
“It’s the same as what happened at the September 9 meeting — it hadn’t gone through the proper protocols of us being briefed beforehand.
“People were very supportive of our decision. It’s hard times and money is tight.
“The phones lit up and the number of people coming into my shop to talk about it was amazing.”