In producing FOCUS, we endeavour to have contact with as many Councils around the country as possible. Whether we are covering a story on Brisbane City Council, serving a population larger than Tasmania, King Island Council in Bass Strait with its 1,800 island residents, Unley in Adelaide or Bendigo, Victoria, large or small, city, provincial or rural, the common theme is Councils striving to make best use of available resources on behalf of their communities.

This edition of FOCUS features various economic development and tourism initiatives where Councils are working to stimulate growth and help offset problems their areas may be encountering. High unemployment, with many jobs lost forever through down sizing and new technology; natural disasters, including drought, floods and bushfires; and the urban drift, just to list a few, all have a devastating impact on an area and the people who reside there.

Many Councils are taking a proactive approach, keen to be the catalyst in drawing their communities together to look for solutions. However, according to Dr Peter Ellyard, futures strategist and former Executive Director of the Australian Commission for the Future, solving current problems is simply not good enough.

Speaking at a recent forum organised by Corangamite Shire in South West Victoria (refer page 6), he said that merely tackling the current situation ignores the fact that we live in a rapidly changing world. In a global marketplace, every area and region is out there competing. What people find valuable defines what they will buy and sell and this determines what the markets will be. Areas need to look at their current attributes and avenues for new products to tap into global markets.

Dr Ellyard believes that 70 percent of job categories and products that will exist by the year 2020 are yet to be created. He said that the old ways are in trouble so new opportunities must be actively sought. What else can we do and is there a better way, are key questions communities need to be asking.

On global issues and change, he believes that by 2010 a planetary trading system will be in place. Selling directly via the Internet will become commonplace, however, areas must have something to sell in the global marketplace. With the Internet globalising the media, Peter Ellyard believes the 21st century will be ‘the century of the planet’. This will have huge implications on the way we live, work and spend our leisure time.

He asserts that old values such as individualism will give way to communitarianism (the rights of the community); independence move to interdependence, where cooperation and collaboration predominates; autocracy to democracy; humanity to nature; intolerance to tolerance; and wars to negotiation.

Predicting continuing consolidation of power to Canberra, Dr Ellyard sees the future of the State Governments as very shaky. Given this, Local Government must seriously consider its future from a regional context. Undoubtedly, Councils are ideally situated to lead their local areas in optimising all opportunities in a rapidly changing world. However, if they fail to look at the big picture, from a global perspective, they will sell themselves and their communities short.