The Locals' Guide - Lord Howe Island


A challenged island

Posted by Pinetrees Lodge – Sunday, June 03, 2018

The Lord Howe Island community

Contributed by Denis Corcoran: Places where only few travellers have ever visited are gems on a well-worn planet. The subtropical island of Lord Howe is as remote a place as you’ll find, but therein lies the challenge. The island is home to some of the planet’s rarest insects and birds. It is also home to approximately 350 people, a sum comprised of multiple factions. Like peeling back the Australian version of a Hindu caste system, there are layers - ‘Islanders’, ’Locals’, ‘Mainlanders’, ’Blow-ins’, ’Seasonal Workers’, and ’Tourists’ (to name a few). Together, these blocs make up the interwoven human fabric of this tiny island.

It’s a fascinating cross section of contemporary Australian society. The foundations are deeply rooted in ‘blood’ links to the original settlers, resulting in multiple local clans. There are doctors, farmers, lawyers, fisherman, teachers, bankers, scientists and even missionaries from various walks of life. Throw in an ex Playboy model for good measure and you’ve got an eclectic bag of culture, wealth and lifestyle.

It’s an island that faces a number of challenges - technologically, environmentally and geographically. However, around the world, history has shown that it is often these crucibles which prove to be the most groundbreaking when it comes to new technology and initiatives.

Enter stage left …… Blockchain.

Recently this buzz word has captured the attention of millions worldwide, but why would it be of any benefit to a remote island of 350 people who don’t even have cellphone coverage let alone a proper bank?

What the hell is Blockchain anyway?

Simply put, Blockchain is a database.

More formally, it is a decentalised database that stores a registry of assets and transactions across a peer to peer network.

Stripped bare, its two key attributes can be explained as follows:

1. Once data is stored in the ‘Blockchain’, it can never be modified or deleted.

2. No single individual or organisation maintains the database. In contrast, several thousand individuals do, and everyone has a copy.

Why should the Island residents contemplate becoming pioneers on this tech related horizon?

Well, if the majority of the island wanted:

• a more accurate tracking and logging of any environmental/conservation initiatives - use Blockchain

• an admissible record of controversial and confusing land based titles - Blockchain it 

• contracts with suppliers that have prearranged payments - boom - Blockchain

• a faster, more effective and transparent democratic voting system across a variety of issues - Blockchain!

We could explore any one of these above ideas in more depth, but it is this strain of democratic inefficiency that is currently plaguing the island airwaves on a number of fronts. Controversial and sensitive conservation based issues have been in the spotlight for some time. The controversy lies not just with the issue or end goal itself, but rather with the process. Issues that are being fast tracked through the democratic process without enough community consultation are causing an uproar from Island residents.

This is where Blockchain can help, by giving power to the community, not just the elected representatives. This current system of representative democracy is clearly failing the island, so is it worth considering a return to the roots of a more participatory democracy? Blockchain enables this.

The underlying issue here is the process, not necessarily the end result. Take the rodent eradication issue. Obviously everyone would love to see no rats (the end goal) but it is the way to go about this (the process) which evokes the passionate controversy.

This is where democracy is failing the island. Wherever uncertainties exist (there are usually many, think PESTEL strategic analysis) the democratic process is slowed down because institutions are required - think the local board, federal government, think tanks, and lobby groups.

Whatever issue is at stake, Blockchain converts the uncertainties into certainties.

The process of using Blockchain technology liberates democracy in the rawest most naked form, free of tribal bias, or business interests. On an island of 350 residents where people’s lives and businesses are so intractably entwined, the current form of decision making is often hindered by these ‘side distractions’ throughout the democratic process.

Blockchain is simply a method to get strangers to work together. Whether that be employees, suppliers to the island, or the island residents themselves.

In the age of information, ignorance is a choice. Technology that can better our lives is attainable, without taking away the magic of the isolation. Which to be fair, is a homage to the Island's heritage. 

Whether we chose to embrace technology is also a choice. People inherently like to moan if they feel they aren’t being listened to – there’s a technological antidote for those moans, it’s called Blockchain.

However, change is never easy to introduce into an established community. ‘If it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ type of attitudes can prevail. Well if you listen to the majority of island residents at the moment, you’d start to believe that democracy on the island seems broken, so go find a solution, or quit moaning.

Like the internet revolutionising our world, Blockchain will invariably do the same. It is a natural step in the evolution of mankind, and it’s hard to fathom life without the internet, well, here’s a newsflash, Blockchain is the new internet.

Want to know more on Blockchain, watch this TED talk that’s had over 1 million views:


The Locals’ Guide to Lord Howe Island is written by Denis Corcoran, Pia Funch, Luke Hanson, Geordie Tennant and Dani Rourke. We regularly visit the island’s iconic locations (and our secret spots) in different conditions, seasons and times of day (by foot, bike, kayak, boat and snorkel), and hope to share our experiences with you. If you need some travel inspiration, details on locations and the best activities, or just a brief online escape from your daily routine, then read our posts about life on Lord Howe Island.