Ballarat’s mayor has spent the first days of a contentious overseas trip in France visiting arts institutions with the newly-appointed director of the Art Gallery of Ballarat.
Mayor Samantha McIntosh also met with the acting Australian ambassador to France, Angus Mackenzie, on Wednesday to discuss his role with UNESCO and the city’s bid alongside 13 other municipalities for the Central Goldfields to receive World Heritage listing.
Economic modelling by the Victorian Goldfields Tourism Executive group state it could provide a $68 million annual boost to the area’s economy.
Cr McIntosh told The Courier on Thursday the city could be involved in celebrations for the French Year of the Australian in 2021, after this week’s discussions.
The mayor and gallery director Louise Tegart, who began her role in June, visited Douai’s Musee de la Chartreuse to discuss a potential exhibition going to France, the institution where the gallery’s current Into Light exhibition was sourced from.
A walking tour of the Paris Catacombs, according to Cr McIntosh, meant she was “visualising the space” in person, to assist future tourism plans for Ballarat’s underground attractions, such as the currently inaccessible shopfronts and tunnels under the Ballaarat Mechanics’ Institute.
But the trip has been controversial, with the majority of Ballarat’s councillors telling The Courier they were concerned by the itinerary only being released two days before the trip begun. The mayor reiterated councillors had been briefed, but said “right up until today there’s been parts of the agenda that have been changing”.
The city’s delegation will now visit three waste to energy facilities in France and England, to assess how the technology fits in with nearby residents and how it functions when connected to a Mars Confectionery factory, as is proposed for Ballarat’s $300 million BWEZ plant.
She will then attend the World Conference of Historical Cities on September 7 to 9 in Bursa, Turkey.
According to Cr McIntosh, furore unfairly eclipsed discussion of the travel’s merits. On her public Facebook page, she accused fellow councillors of being politically-motivated.
“I am not surprised to hear some misleading comments from a couple of councillors given we are leading into mayoral and state elections over next couple of months,” she stated.
The Courier provided City of Ballarat with questions on Monday asking how many council officers would be attending the trip, what the total cost of the trip, and what council’s budget allocation for overseas travel was in this financial year. City of Ballarat declined to answer the questions on Wednesday.