Mayor to cut sister city trip short

LATROBE City mayor Sharon Gibson will only attend part of a 17-day overseas sister city trip in a bid to limit the cost to ratepayers.

Tomorrow, a Latrobe delegation including 18 music exchange students, will leave for Japanese sister city Takasago, but Cr Gibson will not depart until 6 July, effectively skipping the Japanese leg of the trip and flying straight to China.

“I made a decision in November that it had to be business-related, otherwise I wouldn’t be going,” Cr Gibson said.

“I’m very mindful of spending ratepayer money. I can’t justify sightseeing.”

Cr Gibson’s visit will last five days, including travel, and will feature visits to Chinese sister city Taizhou’s government, university, Polytechnic College and secondary college.

She will also officially open a garden dedicated to Australia, which was built in 2012.

The trip is expected to cost ratepayers $25,000, with council sponsoring each exchange student $800 and families paying $2800 each.

The visit comes after a decision in February last year to decline an invitation from Taizhou mayor Xu Guoping to officially open the garden, which represents the city’s bond with the Latrobe Valley.

Council decided to postpone the trip until this year’s planned music exchange program, but the move was not supported unanimously, with some councillors concerned it could harm international relations.

Latrobe City Council travel logs reveal since 2010, visits to Latrobe’s sister cities, including exchange programs, trade missions and work on the Australian garden have cost ratepayers about $83,000.

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