Mayor says Asian junket 'worth every cent'
FRASER Coast Mayor Gerard O'Connell has defended what many have described as his Asian junket, labelling the highly controversial council trip a success.
Cr O'Connell, infrastructure councillor Trevor McDonald and cost-cutting councillor Chris Loft joined council chief executive officer Lisa Desmond for a week-long trip to China and Japan.
At the end of September the delegation travelled to Leshan, in China, and Kasukabe, in Japan, to fulfil the Fraser Coast Regional Council's sister city obligations.
Despite $30,000 being budgeted for sister city arrangements, Cr O'Connell said only "probably a couple of thousand dollars" was spent on the trip.
He was asked whether he thought the trip was worth every cent.
"Absolutely," he said.
"And thanks to the generosity and the hospitality of our host, our cost and financial consideration was kept at an absolute minimum."
However at the council meeting in Hervey Bay on October 1, councillors were slammed by ratepayer activist Allan Fuary for their trip overseas.
"I must admit I feel nothing but contempt to those members of this council who took money from the struggling ratepayers in this region so as to allow themselves to wallow in the trough of self interest," he said.
But an adamant Mayor said the delegation was warmly welcomed by Leshan and Kasukabe business leaders and politicians.
Cr O'Connell said millions of Chinese and Japanese people had heard about the Fraser Coast in their trip.
"We signed further agreements," he said.
"The chamber of commerce at Kasukabe has 3700 members.
"Leshan, our sister city in China, has a population of 3.6 million.
"This is about global networks, it's about promoting the Fraser Coast."
The trip to Asia was the first time this council had travelled overseas.
In August last year a six person group from Leshan visited the Fraser Coast.