By Luke Voogt
Geelong’s council has paid to fly in a keynote speaker from Detroit weeks after voting to send Mayor Bruce Harwood on an $18,000 ‘study tour’.
Design Core Detroit director Ellie Schneider spoke on Wednesday at the launch of Geelong’s designation as a ‘city of design’ in the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.
“Ms Schneider is being hosted by the City of Greater Geelong and the City has provided her with economy class flights to attend,” said council’s investment director Tim Ellis.
“No other representatives have travelled to Geelong for (Wednesday’s) launch.”
Expedia.com currently lists return economy flights from Melbourne to Detroit ranging from about $1200 to $2000.
The expense comes after council on 24 April voted to send Cr Harwood on a 16-day, $18000 ‘study tour’ in June.
Cr Harwood will represent Geelong at a UNESCO Creative Cities Network annual general meeting in Poland, before travelling to Scotland, Italy and Malaysia.
Geelong became ‘city of design’ in the network under the State Government appointed administrators in 2017.
Victorian taxpayers and Geelong-based charity Creative Futures contributed $20,000 for a “website to support the application” for the network, Mr Ellis said.
The City of Greater Geelong, Deakin University and the Australian Centre for Design provided “in-kind support,” he added.
City Hall chose Ms Schneider because Detroit’s history was similar to Geelong’s and her role as the network’s design sub-group coordinator, Mr Ellis said.
Ratepayers Geelong president Andrew Senia has been critical of the city’s membership of the network, describing it as an excuse for “overseas jaunts”.
“The ratepayers are sick and tired of it,” he told the Indy last month.
“Who knows where the next trip will be and how much it will cost.”
But Cr Harwood this week described the membership as a great honour.
“We are now part of an esteemed list of amazing cities including Bilbao, Buenos Aires, Shanghai, Istanbul and Singapore,” he said.