Rotorua Mayor set to visit Japan and China – who will foot the bill?

2:38 pm on 31 October 2023
Tania Tapsell's trip to Beppu, Japan and Suzhou, China

Tania Tapsell's trip to Beppu, Japan and Suzhou, China Photo: NZ Herald graphic

Rotorua Mayor Tania Tapsell will travel to Japan and China in April for a sister-city visit, but the council says the $10,000 cost will be balanced out by other income.

Tapsell's husband and baby daughter will travel with her, but she said her family would cover this cost and it would not be met by the council.

At a meeting last Wednesday, elected members approved the cost of her visit to Beppu in Japan and to Wuzhong District of Suzhou City in China.

An interpreter who lives in Rotorua but comes from Beppu will join Tapsell for the trip to Beppu, another city with geothermal power.

The purpose of the 18-night trip is to renew community ties between Rotorua and the overseas cities and seek new commercial relationships.

Rotorua generates about $23,500 a year on average by hosting delegations, so the cost of the trip was expected to be "balanced out", a council report on the trip stated.

Beppu City Mayor Yasuhiro Nagano had invited Tapsell to attend his city's centenary celebrations.

Council chief executive Gina Rangi said Tapsell's host in Beppu would cover the cost of her family's lodgings for two nights, meals, transport and attendance at events for the mayoral party.

Other accommodation costs ranged from $235 per night at the Suzhou Marriott Hotel in China to $454 a night at Amanek Beppu Yula-Re in Japan. The total accommodation cost will be just over $3000 for the official portion of the trip.

Rangi said the trip to Wuzhong would "optimise the opportunity" presented by the trip.

The mayor will have five non-working days in Tokyo following the celebrations in Beppu, before travelling to China.

Speaking to Local Democracy Reporting after the council meeting, Tapsell said she was not sure what she would get up to in the down-time in Tokyo.

"I've been fortunate to travel to many places in the world but it [Japan] has been my favourite country so far," she said.

Sister city Beppu Mayor Yasuhiro Nagano (left) at the Government Gardens, with Rotorua councillor Trevor Maxwell in 2016. Daily Post Photograph by Andrew Warner.

Beppu Mayor Yasuhiro Nagano with Rotorua Lakes councillor Trevor Maxwell, during Nagano's visit to Rotorua in 2016. Photo: Andrew Warner

Tapsell told the council she considered the trip an opportunity to remind potential visitors from both Asian cities that Rotorua was "back in business" to tourists.

The interpreter was crucial for enabling key visits in Beppu, Tapsell said.

The interpreter will join the mayor for the centenary celebrations and on a visit to Beppu Shosei High School, which is involved in a student exchange programme that has brought about 8000 students to Rotorua since 2001.

Councillor Trevor Maxwell said Tapsell and her pēpi would be "excellent ambassadors" and the trip was of tremendous value, considering the costs.

Rotorua's two other sister cities are Klamath Falls in the United States and Lake Macquarie in Australia.

The international Sister Cities programme aims to promote the mutual exchange of ideas, people and materials in cultural, educational, youth, sports, municipal, professional, and technical projects.

The last time an elected Rotorua council member visited Wuzhong was in 2017 and the last visit to Beppu was in 2016.

- Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

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