COUN­CIL­LORS are un­derr fire for jet­ting to over­seas con­fer­ences and other jun­kets funded by ratepay­ers.

Since Novem­ber, City of Mel­bourne coun­cil­lors have taken seven over­seas jaunts, while a fur­ther six trips have e been ap­proved.

The to­tal cost is $202,788,, in­clud­ing an es­ti­mated $155,000 when Lord Mayor Robert Doyle leads an 11day City of Mel­bourne busi­ness mis­sion to Ja­pan and China in March next year.

In May, Cr Doyle at­tended a global ci­ties fo­rum in Chicago for a cost of $4426, while deputy lord mayor Ar­ron Wood flew to Lon­don in June for The Econ­o­mist Ci­ties Un­bound Con­fer­ence for $4781.

Other trips in­cluded a $3036 cost for Greens coun­cil­lor Cathy Oke to at­tend a bi­o­log­i­cal di­ver­sity bash in Can­cun, Mex­ico, last De

cem­ber, and she has ap­proval for up­com­ing trips to Scan­di­navia and Ger­many.

A city coun­cil spokesman said that lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional travel was in­te­gral to cap­i­tal city coun­cil­lors rep­re­sent­ing the in­ter­ests of “our cit­i­zens and stake­hold­ers”.

“In re­cent years ... travel and trade missions have de­liv­ered mil­lions of dol­lars in in­vestm ment for Mel­bourne across a range of fields in­clud­ing biotech, ur­ban de­sign and plan­ning, and ed­u­ca­tion,” he said.

The spokesman said ev­ery two years the Lord Mayor led a user-pays tar­geted busi­ness mis­sion to Asian ci­ties such as Osaka and Tianjin to sup­port the growth of Mel­bourne firms in cru­cial mar­kets.

City of Yarra mayor Amanda Stone was in­vited to two re­lated sus­tain­abil­ity con­fer­ences to be held in Tai­wan in Septem­ber and Oc­to­ber.

The or­gan­is­ers of­fered to fully cover the trip, but Cr Stone in­stead chose to at­tend a cli­mate change con­fer­ence in Ger­many in Novem­ber at a cost of $2250 to ratepay­ers.

“Due to the time com­mit­ment re­quired to at­tend th­ese con­fer­ences, the mayor has in­di­cated that she is only able to make one over­seas trip,” said a re­port to a Yarra coun­cil meet­ing this month.

For­mer lo­cal gov­ern­ment min­is­ter Natalie Hutchins, just ap­pointed the Min­is­ter for Women role, told the Sun­day Her­ald Sun that she was con­cerned about the num­ber of for­eign trips taken by coun­cil­lors, and there had to be more open­ness with the pub­lic.

Last week, Mel­bourne city coun­cil­lor Nic Frances Gil­ley was given ap­proval to at­tend one of the Tai­wan con­fer­ences, the EcoMo­bil­ity World Congress, in place of Cr Doyle for a cost to coun­cil of $2735.

Also due to at­tend the Tai­wan talk­fest on “sus­tain­able ur­ban trans­porta­tion” is More­land coun­cil mayor He­len Davidson, with the cost of flights and ac­com­mo­da­tion to be fully met by the or­gan­is­ers.

More­land coun­cil­lors last week con­sid­ered whether the trip should be de­clared un­der the coun­cil’s gifts and hos­pi­tal­ity pol­icy.

Among trips taken by other coun­cils was a $15,000-plus air­fares cy­cling study tour to the Nether­lands in June by City of Maribyrnong mayor Cather­ine Cum­ming and deputy mayor Sarah Carter.

Maribyrnong coun­cil spokes­woman Celia Had­dock said the coun­cil was fo­cused on ex­tend­ing bi­cy­cle in­fra­struc­ture and safety.

In April, City of Casey mayor Sam Aziz, Cr Wayne Smith and two staff mem­bers went on a seven-day “eco­nomic part­ner­ship del­e­ga­tion” to China costing ratepay­ers an es­ti­mated $16,000.

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