Fa­ther of sis­ter city not im­pressed

Weekend Courier - - Anzac Day 2018 -

FOR­MER City of Rock­ing­ham coun­cil­lor Mal McFetridge, who in­sti­gated the Sis­ter City re­la­tion­ship with Ako in Ja­pan, has de­scribed the cur­rent re­la­tion­ship as a “gravy train” for coun­cil­lors.

Adam Vaughan-Wil­liams, who was Sis­ter City Com­mit­tee co­or­di­na­tor from 2009 to 2010, also crit­i­cised the re­la­tion­ship.

“I do not think the cur­rent on­go­ing re­la­tion­ship with Ako is value for money,” he said.

The men came for­ward af­ter the coun­cil ap­proved $35,000 for a del­e­ga­tion to visit Ako.

The of­fi­cial del­e­ga­tion will con­sist of Mayor Barry Sam­mels, the coun­cil chief ex­ec­u­tive, Deputy Mayor Deb Ham­blin, Cr An­drew Burns and two Global Friend­ship Com­mit­tee Mem­bers.

“I was the coun­cil­lor (who) put for­ward the mo­tion to form a Sis­ter City re­la­tion­ship with the Ja­panese City of Ako in the late 1990s,” Mr McFetridge said.

“One of the con­di­tions of the re­la­tion­ship… was that the com­mu­nity should be en­cour­aged to take own­er­ship of the re­la­tion­ship with the sup­port of coun­cil.

“Al­though there have been some cul­tural ex­changes be­tween our youth, I can’t see any ev­i­dence of com­mu­nity own­er­ship.

“In fact in the early days I de­scribed the re­la­tion­ship as a gravy train for coun­cil­lors.”

Mr McFetridge said he was dis­ap­pointed with how the re­la­tion­ship had turned out.

“If ever in a po­si­tion to do so, would I pro­pose a sis­ter city re­la­tion­ship again? No,” he said.

Mr McFetridge said the $35,000 should be spent on peo­ple iden­ti­fied as fu­ture lead­ers, bring­ing with them con­struc­tive ideas to progress the re­la­tion­ship.

“One coun­cil­lor should go as a cour­tesy un­til such time as th­ese lead­ers de­velop the re­la­tion­ships and skills needed to max­imise the so­cial, cul­tural and any eco­nomic ben­e­fits that re­sult,” he said.

“In my opin­ion coun­cil should de­fer any over­seas travel un­til com­mu­nity mem­bers cho­sen from schools and com­mu­nity groups are se­lected to join the del­e­ga­tion.”

Mr Vaughan-Wil­liams said the name was changed from City Sis­ter Com­mit­tee to Global Friend­ship Com­mit­tee to open up op­por­tu­ni­ties to more res­i­dents.

“If you look at the de­mo­graphic of the City’s pop­u­la­tion, Ja­pan comes in at 27th on the list, so there are many res­i­dents from other re­gions,” he said.

Mr Vaughan said the Global Friend­ship Com­mit­tee was for res­i­dents to form and nur­ture ties with not only in­ter­na­tional ar­eas but lo­cal and in­ter­state as well.

“I do not think the cur­rent on­go­ing re­la­tion­ship with Ako is value for money, as it does not reach enough of our res­i­dents. Un­less the res­i­dents pro­vide in­put to the com­mit­tee, then they will not change from what is hap­pen­ing,” he said.

Mr Vaughan-Wil­liams en­cour­aged peo­ple to be in­volved.

“That is why the name was changed to Global Friend­ship: to broaden and strengthen our cul­tural ties and re­la­tion­ships of our di­verse com­mu­nity,” he said.

The City of Rock­ing­ham de­clined an op­por­tu­nity to re­spond to the men’s con­cerns.

Cr Sam­mels said let­ters had been sent to or­gan­i­sa­tions with a past his­tory with the Sis­ter City ask­ing for ex­pres­sions of in­ter­est to join the del­e­ga­tion.

Adam Vaughan-Wil­liams and Mal McFetridge are dis­ap­pointed with the cur­rent Sis­ter City re­la­tion­ship with Ako, Ja­pan.

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