It is the 22nd birthday of my oldest son Patric. It is also the start of the voting period for East Gippslands Council Elections. The two events on the surface may seem irrelavent to each other. This is not the case.
While it is clear, that based upon previous performance, a pile of old bricks could do a better job than our incumbent councilors and most of their senior administrative staff, it is not altogether clear that the majority of the 39 prospective candidates will do any better.
The reason for this is, that even a cursory examination of the buzz words and spin, that make up their candidate statements, reveals that they not only do not understand the game they are playing, they are playing it in the wrong venue. They are playing it in the 20th Century.
What does this have to do with my son’s birthday? Consider – The Earth is warming, natural resources are getting very stretched, pollution and populations increase and biospheres collapse. If you do not resonate with this list please return your attention to the sports or business section. My son, in what has become the normal scheme of things, could live for at least another 60 years. This will bring him very close to the start of the next century. Should he have grand children they could potentially live well into it. If they get the opportunity.
It is by no means clear that this will be the case. My generation and that of my parents are the architects and engineers of the unfolding crisis. The warnings and the warning signs have been with us for well over half a century now.
Many of us are now living off our superannuation, garnered at the expense of our planets resources, the exploitation of The Third World and the wholesale disfigurement of our planetary ecosystem. We will die soon, leaving our children with the mess. Denial may make us feel better about it, but does not make it any less true. I am always surprised that our children are not angrier than they are.
What does this have to do with our Council Elections? Having spent a considerable period reviewing the various candidates statements and other writings with which they have put their names: the outlook is bleak indeed. Of the 39 candidates a small handful address our looming problems. The old guard, who everyone seems to be so keen on removing, are probably so deep in denial that they will not even understand what this letter is all about. Most of the wannabees make meaningless remarks about ‘sustainability’ and then go on to contradict themselves by talking about traditional models of growth and development.
East Gippsland represents an opportunity to lead the way in developing new models, new ideas and new goals. We have a low population base and a relatively unpolluted environment. It is not to late yet, but that time is rapidly approaching. The timber industry is having its destructive, primitive, wholesale clearfell and pulp way – endangering our water catchments, affecting our weather and impacting on our ecological integrity. Our urban ‘planning’ is threatening our agricultural land areas and waterways. There are attempts being made to establish extraction industries in areas sensitive ecologically and agriculturally. The members of our community in a position to take advantage of these get-rich-quick -and-damn-the-consequences-schemes try and justify their position by declaring it will create jobs. Surely it will, but so would turning the shire into a national centre for nuclear, chemical, domestic and industrial waste, but I don’t think we want that either.
What is needed is a new plan, a new methodology, serious examination of all our current practises and heaps of vision. There is no sense that there is much, if any, of this amongst most of our council hopefuls.
If our children and our children’s children are going to have meaningful healthy lives they need to participate in meaningful healthy means of living and employment. Companies whose CEOs are paid bonuses for firing people (reducing the effectiveness of the opperation and causing unsupportable strain on the remaining employess are clearly not that. The alternative is small business, creating useful and durable goods and services that conserve non-renewables and concentrate on renewables. They need to bring a direct social as well as economic benefit to the community. We need social enterprises. They must add value both tangible and intangible to our town, East Gippsland, Victoria and Australia.
East Gippsland Shire needs a new plan. Emphasis must be on a balanced integration between rural and urban. A public transport plan needs to be established and implemented for both residents and tourists that radically demphasises the private car. Our changing demographic means we need an integrated health and aged care network, that because of the vast size of the shire and the scattered communities, needs to be something utterly new – the old models just don’t work.
We need to create a society that encourages young families to settle and employment opportunities to retain their children when they are grown. East Gippsland Shire is potentially in the position to create a flagship 21st century society. Lets leave the 20th Century minds behind.
I present this list below for your consideration. Don’t take my word for it, check them out.
(In no particular order)