Local Currency


Martin Oliver writes about a Queensland community’s bid to protect its revenue and stimulate the local economy. In a national first, the town of Maleny in South-East Queensland is set to issue its own note-based complementary currency pegged directly to the Australian Dollar.

Located in the Sunshine Coast hinterland, Maleny is known for its high concentration of cooperatively owned businesses. In 2004, it was the scene of a long campaign against the construction of a Woolworth’s supermarket on the edge of the town. This was tied to a local shopping movement that attracted a large percentage of local residents.

Plugging a leak


When money is spent in a retail chain, up to 80% leaves the local area, and Maleny is trying to plug this leak by boosting its own economy.


To pursue this goal, the Baroon Dollar, named after a nearby lake, will circulate in Maleny and a few nearby small towns including Kenilworth, Mapleton and Montville. Local businesses already committed to participate include Network Video, Cauley Electrics and Rosetta Books.


{quotes}During the past 20 years, many similar initiatives have been launched elsewhere in the world{/quotes} and with the accumulated wealth of experience that this represents, new complementary currency systems such as Maleny’s are spared the difficulty of laborious trial and error.


People will be able to exchange federal currency for Baroon Dollars. As an extra incentive, it will be possible to exchange $100 in Australian Dollars for $105 worth of the local dollars. The Australian Dollars will then be placed in a trust fund, and interest received will be used to cover the overheads, as well as fund selected local projects. At this stage, it is expected that Baroon Dollars will be exchangeable back into regular dollars.


The project is linked to the group Sustainable Maleny and has a significant overlap with the aims of Transition Towns movement, of which Maleny is a member. Coordinator Darren Mitchell sees Maleny’s initiative as a local stimulus package the town has decided to give to itself.


Range of benefits


According to Darren’s philosophy, the currency carries with it a wide range of benefits:


Improving the resilience of local economy by keeping money circulating locally.

Encouraging local food production and farmers’ markets.

More work for unemployed and underemployed people.

Media attention on the town that is likely to attract tourists.

Currency collectors are likely to buy the notes, which will further add to local coffers.


Alternative currencies


Maleny previously had its own Local Exchange Trading System, a complementary currency better known as LETS, and members would trade with one another using a special currency known as “Bunyas”. But LETS has limitations that discourage the involvement of the local business community. Alternative paper currencies appeal to businesses because they more closely resemble the mainstream money system.


Overseas, the first paper complementary currency of modern times was the Ithaca Hour, which started in 1991 as a reaction to the first Gulf War. In the Massachusetts town of Great Barrington, with a population of about 7000, the BerkShares currency system has attracted 365 businesses. BerkShares organisers agree with the American thinker, Wendell Berry, that the foundation of a healthy community is a healthy local economy, and that its values include trust, good faith, good will, and mutual help.






Baroon Dollar


Sustainable Maleny


Ithaca Hour




Transition Town