City of Rockingham defends sending council delegation to Ako, Japan after backlash over costs

City of Rockingham Mayor Barry Sammels.
City of Rockingham Mayor Barry Sammels.

CITY of Rockingham has defended spending $35,000 on sending a delegation to Ako, Japan, saying the sister city relationship was an important part of the business of local government.

Secret Harbour resident Briony Lopas claimed the trip was a misappropriation of ratepayers’ money.

She said council approving the trip was a conflict of interest as those voting for it were the ones going on the trip.

But Mayor Barry Sammels denied there was a conflict of interest.

He said the delegation to Ako would deliver many consequential benefits to the wider community.

“Periodic visits between cities are an important element of sustaining a productive ongoing relationship,” Cr Sammels said.

“The City of Ako has been very active in this relationship, sending many delegations to Rockingham in the past five years.

“The City of Rockingham has not sent a delegation since 2011.

Last year the City of Ako delegation to Rockingham consisted of Ako City representatives such as the mayor, directors,chief, staff and citizens.

The Rockingham Global Friendship Committee proposed a similar delegation reciprocate the visit.

The delegation to Ako was approved at the March 27 council meeting.

The official delegation will consist of Cr Sammels, the council chief executive, Deputy Mayor Deb Hamblin, Cr Andrew Burns and two Global Friendship Committee Members.

The estimated $35,000 in expenses would all be covered within the Global Friendship Committee budget.

There will also be an invitation of expressions of interest from community members to participate in the community delegation in conjunction with the official delegation.

Community members that are part of an incorporated organisation and association will be able to apply for a community grant up to $3000 to help with costs to visit Ako.

Ms Lopas’ petition protesting the delegation has more than 450 signatures.

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