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New Zealand Tour

Huge gratitude to the timebanking movement in New Zealand which invited me and shunted me around the country introducing me to most of the active people in monetary reform and complementary currencies, and following in the footsteps of such legends as Tom Greco, Nicole Foss, and Margrit Kennedy. Highlights were as follows:

  • Lincoln, nascent timebank, starting with Hamlets. Played 'Trading floor'
  • Lytellton, the first timebank in NZ founded by Margaret Jeffries, renouned for its usefulness in the quake. Played 'Trading floor'
  • Nelson, nascent timebank, using Hamlets. Played 'Trading floor'
  • Motueka. Help to set up a Hamlets site with 2 currencies, and lead 'trading floor' at the timebank launch.
  • Wellington, led a discussion at the tech incubator, Enspiral, and did some token WOOFing.
  • The National Hui (meeting) was hosted by the Otaki time bank where I spoke on a national software strategy, talked to Miriam the frontline drupal administrator, and wrote a follow up document which will hopefully inform a collective decision.
  • 2 days of solitude and catching up with mail in Miles's beach hut.
  • Hanging out on the beach with the New Economics Party
  • Ashhurst where I finally met Community Forge's server manager.
  • Masterton with Sonia Corbett and Helen Dew of Living Economies
  • 4am wakeup call, and escort to the airport with breakfast, coffee and cash for the next leg!

More than the events though, I want to reflect and report on the conversations.

Being on the end of the global supply chain, New Zealand has always had expensive supermarkets and culture of domestic food production.The recession isnt really felt, but the effects of quantitative easing and Chinese money is pushing property prices up in addition to earthquakes and building regulations making housing scarce. The country is on permanent earthquake alert, but in so many unquantifiable ways I felt the community level resilience greater than in Europe. Several times I encountered people keeping animals, making good use of informal relationships, home-schooling. I'm not saying all the usual elements of modern capitalism were not also present, but I noticed the advertising less relentless, and as one person said, New Zealanders lack cynicism! The Prime Minister John Key seems to be a fully paid up member of the global banking fraternity, and the countries assets are being stripped and poisoned like everywhere else. There is currently great concern about the Trans-Pacific-Partnership, a trade agreement surrendering much sovereignty to the USA, being negotiated in secret.

Timebanks in New Zealand are a hot commodity! There are several 'green dollar' mutual credit schemes but apart from the really isolated Golden Bay H.A.N.D.S., which I hope to visit one day, Green dollars and LETS are mostly stagnant. In contrast to USA and UK, most timebanks are entirely grassroots organisations with no institutional funding. They are aware of how Timebanks can become social service delivery agencies, and cautious about how they seek funds.

But there's another hot topic which much overlaps with the timebanking. Many of the leading timebankers are also members of 'savings pools', modelled on the JAK Bank, these small groups are building relationships and already saving some of their members from debt. Members pay and borrow from a pool earning and spending 'dollar-month' points. It is allowed to borrow before saving as long as there are funds in the pool and as long as dollar months borrowed equal dollar months saved in the end.

Motueka's integration of the old LETS with the new timebank caused a stir of interest elsewhere. In particular, running a LETS and a timebank side-by-side leads to a discussion about what the differences are. In principle a timebank hour is an acknowledgement of work done, and hours are not, in principle, redeemable. Whereas a LETS is an exchange system which means the rule of Zero is much more important and that for everything taken, something must be given. This design trait, combined with any starting gifts and any annual fees must be understood in order to know the rate at which new credit, if any, can sustainably issued from the reservoir. Broadly speaking, it is understood that hour currencies are fiat and should be used for volunteers and community service and charity, while LETS should be used more for produce and goods. There was some interest in the possibility of running savings pool accounting alongside LETS and timebank accounting, and the pools will need some highly customised accounting software to help them expand.

Rather than preaching to the converted I tried to challenge the groups who invited me to speak, by pointing out that common approaches to the revolution, and to monetary innovation are not working or not scaling, and challenging them to be more ambitious and more committed to each other. While I need to be careful not to promote myself as some kind of expert that I am not, my broad strategic overview seemed appreciated when reviewing local resilience initiatives.

I'm very greatful to the 12 activists and families who hosted me over 22 days, and I look forward to returning to work more deeply with them.


It was fabulous that you came to NZ Matt. You were an undemanding and pleasant guest and I so enjoyed talking to you. Thanks for your wise contribution. It sure was fun hanging out on Paekakariki Beach watching people swim and talking as the day finished.

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