SALTWATER ECONOMY

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Surf, sun, sand and nbn will change how we work, live and play outside major cities. (Photo credit: Visit NSW).

Sam Wills lives in Port Stephens and is a research fellow in economics at Oxford University. He works with a team based in Boston, New York, London, Accra as well as Oxford. He wrote an article in the Sydney Morning Herald on 26 December with the headline “Log in from paradise: sun, surf and the nbn”. His point was that the internet, especially when enhanced by the nbn, will attract more digital workers to coastal regions. He argues that employees should keep pushing to be allowed to work remotely and that employers should listen because it can increase productivity, satisfaction and the real wages of their workers. And here is the rub: he wants local governments and local business councils to also be proactive and start marketing their lifestyle possibilities to the rest of the world. 

Now this experience is not new. What I find refreshing is how a tech savvy person can articulate so clearly the advantages of working remotely from a position held in another country and then encourage others to consider similar life advantages. The nbn will provide more opportunities for this type of migration away from cities in various occupations and that people should be on the lookout for opportunities to respond to Sam’s challenge to visit and ”think about staying with us a little longer”.

In my work this past year on the NSW coastal reforms, I have been inspired by the phrase ”saltwater economy” as used by the Planning Minister Rob Stokes in his various speeches. The essence of this phrase is to see our coast as consisting of places that will offer opportunities for economic growth and employment in ways that sustain and improve natural conditions while providing for treasured lifestyles and livelihoods. The wordexploitation is not being used as it has in the past in the use (and abuse) of natural coastal resources. Instead the emphasis is in making real that wonderful Australian concept of ecologically sustainable development (ESD). The word development in this context implies an appreciation of natural conditions and ensuring that the public good is not compromised by private actions. NSW coastal reforms attempt to take us along this path. We in ACS must do our best in 2016 to also ensure other states foster the right balance for coastal settlements and cities between public and private benefits.

During 2016 the NSW Government will attempt to roll out its coastal reforms through new legislation, policy (SEPP) and a Manual. The word opportunities appears in the papers now out for consultation. The intent here is to do what Sam Wills was asking local councils and business groups to do: to get out and market their areas as places that use emerging technologies and at the same time enjoy the wonders of coastal living; to which I would add and never again adopt policies and practices that allow the twin evils of ignorance and greed to destroy those treasured values.

– words by Prof Bruce Thom