‘Not a good look’: Councillor questions mayor’s trip

Whanganui’s previous official visits to Toowoomba have focused on gardens and events such as the Carnival of Flowers, which attracts up to 300,000 visitors a year. Photo / Tourism and Events Queensland

A Whanganui mayoral delegation will soon head to Toowoomba, but one district councillor has questioned the timing of the trip.

Whanganui Mayor Andrew Tripe and councillor Glenda Brown will go to Australia in June to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the sister city relationship between the cities.

Councillor Ross Fallen was the only elected member to vote against the trip at a council meeting last week.

According to a report from the council’s general manager of community and customer experience Marianne Cavanagh, the estimated costs for travel, accommodation and associated expenses such as host gifts are $2500 per person and are budgeted in the Long Term Plan.

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Speaking to the Chronicle, Fallen said the timing of the trip was “particularly uncomfortable” because of Whanganui’s proposed average rates increase of 10.6 per cent for 2024/25.

“It’s not a good look, from my perception,” he said.

“I think the council should have been showing a little bit of restraint, even though it’s a small amount of money.

“It’s been eight years since we last went. Why would another year matter?”

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Councillor Ross Fallen says the timing of the trip is “particularly uncomfortable”. Photo / Bevan Conley

Fallen said he wanted to see economic data which showed Whanganui residents were benefiting from the relationship.

Tripe and Brown will travel alongside an agribusiness delegation led by economic development agency Whanganui & Partners, which will be in Toowoomba for a study tour before a conference in Brisbane.

At the council meeting, Cavanagh said there had not been a mayoral delegation to Toowoomba since 2015.

“We are relatively overdue and [Toowoomba] have been here quite a few times recently as well.”

Then-Toowoomba mayor Paul Antonio, who retired last July, visited Whanganui in March last year.

Cavanagh’s report said sister city visits between Whanganui and Toowoomba previously focused on gardens and flower festivals.

“This delegation visit will … discuss opportunities for trade and economic growth.”

Councillor Glenda Brown will join Whanganui Mayor Andrew Tripe on the trip. Photo / Bevan Conley
Councillor Glenda Brown will join Whanganui Mayor Andrew Tripe on the trip. Photo / Bevan Conley

Councillor Josh Chandulal-Mackay said nationalism was increasing globally and people were retreating into themselves.

“In that context, international partnerships are more important than ever,” he said.

“We need to be nurturing our sister city relationships.”

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Tripe said Whanganui could “leverage” its sister cities “a whole lot more than we do”, and he was sure the trip would be productive.

Because of its Unesco City of Design designation, Whanganui was part of a 246-city network, he said.

“We have grown up now and we can think aspirationally about our future being connected to the rest of the world.”

Councillor Kate Joblin thanked Tripe and Brown for offering to go because “these trips away are not wonderful and not fun”.

“I’m sure there are parts of it that will be enjoyable, but representing Whanganui on the Australian world stage is really important,” she said.

Fallen said he was disappointed no one questioned why he voted against the trip.

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“I think, collectively, elected members have misstepped on this matter.

“It’s a tiny amount, but this is bad, bad timing.”

Mike Tweed is an assistant news director and multi-media journalist at the Whanganui Chronicle. Since starting in March 2020, he has dabbled in everything from sport to music. At present, his focus is local government, primarily Whanganui District Council.

Source: nzherald.co.nz

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