Tinkler's China offer to councillors

MINING magnate Nathan Tinkler has offered to bankroll a Newcastle City Council trip to China.

The Newcastle Herald can reveal the Newcastle Knights and Jets owner has contacted lord mayor John Tate, offering to pay the bill to send council representatives on a visit to China.

The offer was made after councillors voted at this week’s meeting against allocating $15,000 towards sending a delegation of councillors and staff members on the four-day trip.

The aim of the delegation was to establish relationships between Newcastle and Yantai City in Shandong Province, as well as building trade links between manufacturers.

The original proposal was for five ‘‘council delegates’’ to attend, although Cr Tate indicated at Tuesday night’s meeting he might not be available.

Mr Tinkler’s emailed offer would have to be taken to the council chambers to be taken up, potentially going to the next meeting on May 15.

When the Herald contacted Cr Tate yesterday, the lord mayor said he had passed along details of the ‘‘unusual’’ offer to councillors for consideration, and was holding discussions with general manager Phil Pearce.

‘‘I have advised Nathan by return email what I have done,’’ Cr Tate said.

He said it was up to councillors whether they chose to formally consider the offer.

‘‘I don’t want to influence councillors one way or the other, but I think there’s got to be a really strong consideration of the probity of it all,’’ he said.

Mr Pearce emailed councillors to ‘‘caution any consideration of private offers to fund councillor or staff trips’’.

‘‘I will ask council’s legal team for an opinion and provide this to councillors when complete,’’ he wrote.

Councillors at this week’s meeting rejected suggestions by councillors Scott Sharpe and Bob Cook that a three-person delegation, not five, be sent, reducing the cost by $6000.

‘‘In the scheme of things, $9000 or $15,000 is not really a lot of money to foster these relationships,’’ Cr Cook said.

Cr Aaron Buman said yesterday he would only support a single councillor being sent.

A spokesman for Mr Tinkler confirmed last night the mining magnate had made the offer.

‘‘Obviously China is a major trading partner with Australia and, from a Newcastle perspective, we want to co-operate with them in any way possible,’’ he said.

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