Council pays for trip to Japan

Mayor Harry Duynhoven says a ratepayer funded trip to Japan for Lynn Bublitz, Trenton Martin and Julie Straka is a good investment.
Mayor Harry Duynhoven says a ratepayer funded trip to Japan for Lynn Bublitz, Trenton Martin and Julie Straka is a good investment.

Ratepayer cash will be forked out for a New Plymouth District Council jaunt to Japan, but Mayor Harry Duynhoven has defended the cost as a worthwhile investment.

Mr Duynhoven, international relations working party chairman Lynn Bublitz, cultural adviser Trenton Martin and international relations co-ordinator Julie Straka will have their trips to sister city Mishima paid for by the council.

Anticipated costs for flights and accommodation are $3000 to $4000 for each delegate.

Mr Duynhoven said he did not know the total cost of the trip because not all expenses had been finalised. However, he doubted it would even be as much as the $3000 to $4000 initially estimated.

"We're flying economy class to Tokyo then taking the trains everywhere else," he said.

Three other people on the trip, but not from the council, will pay their own way.

Mr Bublitz had originally planned to pay his own travel expenses but because of the role he holds, council policy dictated his expenses be paid.

Mr Duynhoven said Mr Bublitz' tendency to pay his own way on past trips had set an unfortunate precedent.

"As chair of committee he should be paid for. It's not as though we're flying first class," he said.

The delegation will travel to Mishima to celebrate the 20-year sister-city relationship with New Plymouth. They will also visit schools and Nihon University as part of a student exchange programme.

Mr Bublitz said the sister-city relationship encouraged understanding between cultures and made future conflicts less likely - an idea that came about after World War II.

Mr Duynhoven said the trip would reap benefits that were not obvious to the ratepayer or business owner until they get involved. "That's why we have Withers Coachlines' Blair Withers as part of the group, to give him a chance to meet with potential business partners."

Whether any gains were made as a result of the trip would depend on good fortune, he said. "If you don't go with goodwill and don't engage, there's no chance of future business prospects. I hope it will be very fruitful."

The sister city relationship was started by a group from Mishima at a time when many people were still critical of Japan and the Japanese, Mr Bublitz said.

Last year a high-powered delegation from the city visited New Plymouth to mark the 20th anniversary of the Pacific bond.

Mayor Takeshi Toyooka noted it was time to start building business relationships between the two cities.

"In the last 20 years it has been about building relationships between people," he said. "From now on we have been trying to think about how we can support each other in business ways."

Speaking through an interpreter, Mr Toyooka said such areas of co-operation could include oil, gas and power industries as well as support with such things as information technology.

The Mishima delegation included representatives from an iron recycling company, the tourism association and the chamber of commerce and industry.

Taranaki Daily News