City of Ballarat has revealed its councillors and employees have spent almost $50,000 on international travel this year alone, with changes to the travel policy ahead.
The city’s most costly and contentious overseas trip in 2018 totaled $26,657, with mayor Samantha McIntosh, Art Gallery of Ballarat director Louise Tegart and the city’s economic development executive manager James Guy visiting France, United Kingdom and Turkey in August to consider art exchanges and waste to energy.
A press release from City of Ballarat stated the details would “ensure transparency”, but media officers could not tell The Courier whether details of council officer’s travel would be released at the end of every year.
The city’s full 2018 international travel cost to ratepayers was $49,882.43. The cost on inter-state travel is unknown.
A $14,000 trip taken by the municipality’s director of development and planner Angelique Lush and environment executive manager Steve Van Orsouw to Denmark and Germany was also detailed.
The pair visited the Amager Bakke Waste to Energy Waste Plant, and met with Malaysian Resources Corporation Berhad, the company City of Ballarat has signed a three month heads of agreement with to create a plant at BWEZ.
Councillors will also consider whether international travel will need to be again voted on council chambers at a meeting next week, after a policy change in May.
Councilor Ben Taylor, who moved the motion for the changes in May, told the chamber that interstate and international travel for Councillors “wasn’t glamourous” and was a necessary council function.
Currently, City of Ballarat’s CEO is able to sign off on overseas trips, without it having to be considered at a council meeting open to the public.
The council report states when councillor and public furore erupted in August this year around overseas travel, it was evident “the new policy did not meet Councillor and community expectations regarding how they should be informed of travel requests and approvals”.
At the time, a majority of Ballarat councillors shared concerns that they weren’t informed about the extent of the European travel.