24 Aug 2012

Christchurch mayor lashes out over sister-city travel

10:15 am on 24 August 2012

Christchurch mayor Bob Parker has lashed out at councillors opposing plans for him to visit sister cities with his wife, saying they are playing political games.

At a meeting on Thursday, councillors voted 9-2 to approve funding for a trip to several cities in the Asia-Pacific region this year.

The sister cities are Wuhan and the Gansu province in China, Kurashiki in Japan, Songpa-gu in South Korea and Adelaide in Australia.

Before the voting, Mr Parker told councillors that the personal attacks he and his wife Jo Nicholls-Parker had received over the trip had been extremely upsetting.

"While I'm touching on the personal denigration that some people seem to find second nature," he said, "I would mention that my wife has, through no fault of her own, had to endure the slings and arrows of narrow minds and misinformed people for doing nothing more than being my partner."

Councillor Yani Johanson opposed the travel because he believes the money should be spent on the city's recovery from devastating earthquakes.

However, councillor Sue Wells says maintaining overseas relationships is important for tourism and the council's main focus is still recovery.

Although details of the trip are still being arranged, the cost is likely to fall within the $42,000 annual budget for mayoral travel.

Mr Parker says he will meet the costs associated with his wife's travel, following months of heated debate among councillors and critics of expenditure in the city about whether she should have a ratepayer-funded travel allowance.

The couple returned this week from a visit to Sydney calling for Australians to visit and invest in Christchurch as it begins to rebuild.

Mr Parker says although his wife's attendance is necessary for these kind of visits, her travel will now be personally funded.