Ratepayers foot $6000 bill for council delegation headed to Dunedin, New Zealand

OFF OVERSEAS: Mayor Margaret O'Rourke is part of a four-person delegation headed to Dunedin, New Zealand, on Thursday.
OFF OVERSEAS: Mayor Margaret O'Rourke is part of a four-person delegation headed to Dunedin, New Zealand, on Thursday.

Ratepayers will foot the $6000 bill for a council delegation headed to New Zealand on Thursday.

Two councillors – mayor Margaret O’Rourke and Matt Emond – along with the city’s chief executive officer and regional sustainable development manager will visit Dunedin, with a brief to learn about economic and creative industry development.

The outlay includes flights and accommodation but Bendigo council on Tuesday could not confirm any other costs associated with the trip as it said the itinerary hadn't been finalised yet, however mayor O’Rourke suggested the trip was a “very good investment”.

Dunedin’s broadband capabilities, its local business enterprise groups and creative industries were something Bendigo could learn from, Cr O’Rourke said.

“It's about looking out to bring (ideas) back and look in,” she said.

The four-day trip will include meetings organised by City of Dunedin mayor and current president of the local government New Zealand national council, Cr David Cull.

Since January 2017, the city has spent $9014 for councillors’ overseas trips, which included Cr O’Rourke’s trip to China early last year, while some councillors have also embarked on self-funded international trips.

The total cost of educational trips for council staff over the same period was $16113. 

“The council is very moderate on their travel and what they do in comparison to other councils,” Cr O’Rourke said.

The mayor’s trip to China helped secure ongoing trade opportunities for Bendigo-based businesses that exported to China, she said.

“The relationships continue because of those meetings,” she said.

Councillors discussed the trip at a recent briefing and a report on the visit will be provided to councillors at a future council meeting. 

According to the city’s CEO Craig Niemann, the councillor support policy states the city will cover costs associated with councillors travelling overseas on council business as approved by the council within the limits of the budget approved by council. This includes airfares, accommodation, visas, passport costs, car hire, taxis and meals.

Of the council’s $221 million budget in 2017-18, the total revenue to be collected is $185.9 million, which includes rates and charges, statutory fees and fines, user charges fees and fines, operating and capital grants, interest on investments, and monetary and non-monetary contributions from other sources.