CITY of Greater Geelong mayor Bruce Harwood has made a spirited defence of Geelong becoming a UNESCO City of Design, saying the costs incurred so far would “pale into insignificance” compared to the potential benefits.
The City of Greater Geelong generally and Cr Harwood specifically have been criticised for the mayor’s recent publically funded overseas travel, which includes last month’s $20,000 trip, mostly for the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) Creative Cities Network annual meeting in Poland but also including visits to Scotland and Italy.
Speaking to this newspaper last week, Cr Harwood said that now Geelong was designated as a City of Design (the first in Australia), the trip was justified and had broadened the city’s thinking about some of its future major projects, including the new consolidated council building (which he hoped would “give Geelong a real wow factor”), the Geelong convention centre and stage five of GMHBA Stadium.
“Surely you have to look at the merit first and foremost – what is the reasoning, and what is the end value that is sought? You can’t just say no, and you can’t just say yes.
“The amount of money that’s been spent for what we’re talking about in relation to Geelong’s future, I think pales into insignificance very quickly.
“To bring back the ideas and the learnings that we have got – this is what we’ve learnt about cities that have been in our position and have done exactly what we are doing.
“You can see first-hand some of the buildings they’ve done are absolutely spectacular, and perhaps things we wouldn’t have turned our mind to; we’d thought ‘that’s too big for Geelong’. It actually isn’t any more.”
He said the trips to Dundee and Turin were particularly inspirational in terms of waste energy, and a similar system for Geelong was under serious investigation.
Cr Harwood made an “opportune” visit to AirAsia’s Malaysia headquarters on the way back from Europe, and returned this week for the airline’s announcement that twice-daily flights between Avalon Airport and Kuala Lumpur (with promotional fares as low as $99) would begin on December 5.
“To not go (this week) would be showing a sense of being dismissive about it; it’s showing our willingness to engage,” he said.
A report on the UNESCO trip will be presented to the council in late July.