THE Ballarat City Council has moved to extend its ties with Asia in the wake of two ratepayer-funded delegations to Japan and China.
A 45-member delegation from Yangzhou in China will be invited to visit Ballarat next year, after the council voted to endorse the exchange at last night’s ordinary meeting.
It comes after councillors John Burt and John Philips, chief executive officer Anthony Schinck and one council officer travelled to Yangzhou in China from October 26 to 28, before flying to Japan for a five-day, five-member delegation to Inagawa to mark the 25th anniversary of Ballarat’s sister city relationship.
The combined cost of the trips was nearly $50,000, with Ballarat Citizen of the Year Tony Lovett and 17 self-funded community members also flying to Inagawa for the anniversary celebrations.
The council considered two reports summarising the activities of the delegations on their visits last night.
Cr Burt said Ballarat’s relationship with Yanghzou, a city of 4.6 million people, had “unlimited”economic potential, while the long association with Inagawa in Japan represented a valuable cultural and educational exchange that had evolved over time.
The Yangzhou Municipal People’s Government recently sought a formal invitation from mayor Joshua Morris to send a proposed 45 member delegation to Ballarat next year.
Ballarat and Yangzhou signed a Memorandum of Understanding with an agreement to strengthen and generate mutual economic, cultural and social benefits.
The council came under criticism earlier this year when it announced the $35,000 delegation to Japan only weeks after ratepayers were burdened with a hefty rate rise.
It was asked to scale down the trip but later scaled it up by adding Yangzhou, China to the itinerary for another $15,000.