Going Local – Ideas for Northland

Going Local NorthlandThe current thinking for increasing the economic well-being of Northland tends to focus on increasing exports and tourism and attracting investment from outside of the region. But what if there is a different path to have a vibrant economy with full employment? What if we focussed on cultivating a more internally networked local* economy where external trade is a healthy byproduct rather than the central goal?

In his book Going Local – Creating Self-Reliant Communities in a Global Age, economist, attorney, author, and entrepreneur, and a globally recognised expert on community economics Michael Shuman says:

Going local does not mean walling off the outside world. It means nurturing locally owned businesses which use local resources sustainably, employ local workers at decent wages, and serve primarily local consumers. It means becoming  more self-sufficient, and less dependent on imports. Control moves from the boardrooms of distant corporations and back to the community, where it belongs. (p6)

He suggests that higher levels of reliance on the global economy is often a slippery slope into loss of autonomy, community powerlessness and accompanying worse social and economic outcomes. He provides examples of cities and regions around the world abandoned by large industry who have faced social and economic disaster, but instead assessed what was left and found ways to recover a more buoyant local/regional economy. His hypothesis is that the costs of courting large-scale overseas investment is too high. The advantages are temporary at best. Concentrating on generating a vibrant local economy instead empowers a community to feel as if it is able to address its own problems, and is not at the mercy of distant corporations. A long-term, robust economy is founded instead on locally anchored sustainable* businesses.

Whangarei Heads

The only way communities can ensure their economic well-being is to stop chasing multinational firms with no community loyalties, and start investing in community corporations. Prosperity follows when ownership, production, and consumption become intimately connected with place. (p7)

Shuman suggests the following approach:

  • develop clear shared values and goals to benefit our region over as wide a consensus as possible,
  • assess our assets and resources,
  • then build those up through minimising leakage and enhancing co-operation between local government, businesses, training institutions
  • out of that to develop a new “normal”

The purpose of this paper

The purpose of this paper is to provide not just information and ideas, but a bridge from discussion and theory into action.

The final chapter in Shuman’s book addresses steps toward community self-resilience*. In this paper I explore how we could adapt these to Northland. There are many people across Northland I am aware of who are passionate about these subjects – people who are vastly experienced and knowledgeable in all sorts of diverse fields. I want to sound a call to action – to provide a catalyst for bringing people and ideas together see something constructive emerging from this potent mix.

The Steps are as follows (follow links): work in progress

Step 1: A Community Bill of Rights

Step 2: The State of the Region Report

Step 3: Anchor Corporations

Step 4: Community Friendly Business Schools

Step 5: Community Finance

Step 6: Community Currency

Step 7: Community-Friendly Local Councils

Step 8: Political Reform

Step 9: A Lobby for Localism

Step 10: Inter-localism


*A couple of definitions:

  • “Local”: I see it is important that we treat Northland as an economic entity – so here when use “Iocal” I am referring to the region of Northland/Tai Tokerau – the land north of the direct influence of Auckland.
  • “Sustainability”: When I use it here I simply mean the ability for a system to continue – there are obviously environmental, social and economic factors that contribute to sustainability and these must be viewed together, not as separate or opposing agendas.
  • “Resilience”: This has been defined is the capacity to withstand stress and catastrophe; to return back to shape after shock or distortion. Again this may be applied on environmental, social and economic levels, and especially how these can enhance each other.

Bibliography/ Suggested reading

Where to from here?


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