Rockingham councillors’ Japan trip causes upset in Secret Harbour

Briony Lopas wants the City of Rockingham to spend the trip money locally.
Briony Lopas wants the City of Rockingham to spend the trip money locally.

A SECRET Harbour resident says she is “outraged” a $35,0000 trip for councillors to visit Rockingham’s sister city in Japan, Ako was passed at last week’s March meeting.

Briony Lopas said she first became aware of the trip after seeing a post from Councillor Matthew Whitfield on the Real Residents of Secret Harbour Facebook page.

“He posted it to make the residents aware because he disagreed with it,” she said.

Ms Lopas claimed it was a misappropriation of ratepayers money and a conflict of interest that those voting for it were the ones going on the trip.

She said many residents had expressed their concern to ward councillor Chris Elliott on Facebook.

“Many were asking for a list of benefits to Rockingham and had genuine concerns about how council was spending the money,” she said.

Cr Chris Elliott.

Cr Elliott said he had been personally attacked and the objective of Sister City relationships were about more than money.

“There are some really nasty people in Secret Harbour that hate me with a passion,” he said.

“I was asked what the benefits were and I gave the reasons why I thought it was beneficial.

“It included the hundreds of students that know about Japanese culture from exchanges between Ako and Rockingham schools and some really firm friendships have been made.

“The Ako Children’s Choir that have given public performances in Rockingham – these things enrich our community.

“I responded three times to the questions and yes I did get grumpy in the last response.

“I was getting tired of the personal responses where I was accused of being greedy, corrupt and an old dinosaur.”

Cr Whitfield said he posted about the Ako trip for transparency.

“No I don’t agree with the trip but it was not a single post about Ako,” he said.

“It was the list of upcoming items on the (March) agenda.

“You have to bounce things off people and be up front about it.

“I don’t agree with personal insults or attacks but people are allowed to vent and they shouldn’t be patronised for it.

“I think social media should be embraced.”

Ms Lopas has launched a petition to get the council to reverse the decision approving the trip to Ako.

It currently has 320 signatures on it.

 

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