Look in your backpacks, councils told

A vision of 2050 when self-driving cars are the norm and robots have taken many of our jobs was presented at the Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) conference yesterday.

A range of speakers at the conference in Dunedin stressed the importance of adapting in a period of unprecedented technological, environmental, and demographic change.

PwC director Greg Doone stressed the need for councils to become "lean'' organisations and make necessary cutbacks if they were to meet the challenges caused by rapid change.

Rapid advancements in technology meant change happened quickly and was hard to predict, which made long-term planning difficult for councils and other organisations, Mr Doone said.

"Change and rapid change is the new normal.''

He identified self-driving cars, automation, digitised healthcare, the continuing mobile revolution and more devices being connected to the internet - "the internet of things'' - as trends that would probably transform society by 2050.

New Zealand stood to gain more than other parts of the world because technological breakthroughs were breaking down the barriers caused by physical isolation, but councils, like other organisations, needed to position themselves to take advantage.

To do that, councils needed to reduce costs.

He used the analogy of a backpacker who, back in 2000, would have packed their bags with CDs, books and multiple guide books.

All these had become obsolete with the advent of the smartphone.

"The question I would ask all of you is what's in your backpack, what's in your organisation's backpack that's stopping you being a lean organisation.''

Dunedin city councillor Aaron Hawkins, who is co-chairman of LGNZ's young elected members, helped launch a discussion paper that examined what New Zealand communities could look like in 2050 and how councils should respond in a period of rapid change.

The challenges identified in the paper centred around the five major themes of urbanisation, liveable cities and changing demographics; stewardship of the natural environment; responding to climate change; equality and cohesion; and the future of work.

Mr Hawkins said the major shifts identified in the paper could not be addressed by councils alone and support would be needed from the private sector, the community and central government.



Predictions for 2050

■As many as 46% of New Zealand jobs are at high risk of automation by 2050. More people will be working part-time and doing multiple jobs rather than ‘‘9 to 5''.

■The European population is expected to increase by 12%, with increases of 25% for Maori, 71% for Asian and 40% for Pasifika populations.

■By 2050 40% of the population will live in Auckland, up from 30% now. Other major cities are expected to grow but significant population decline is projected in many of the regions.

■The working-age population will need to support almost double the number of people aged 65 and over.

■ Climate change will bring rising sea levels that will cause land loss through coastal erosion and storm events, higher temperatures and changes to rainfall patterns.

*From LGNZ discussion paper: ‘‘The 2050 challenge: Future proofing our communities''




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