Skip to content

It’s Population, Stupid – Again

June 9, 2011

NSW Planning Minsiter Brad Hazzard

Local government and state government – Warringah and Macquarie Street in this case – are at odds because councils have been told they must plan for population growth and a local member doesn’t like the walk-up flats his council has settled on. The local member happens to be Planning Minister, Brad Hazzard. His council is Warringah on Sydney’s northern beaches.

The new Premier Barry O’Farrell is a supporter of a Big Australia which can be taken to mean an intake of between 400,000 and 500,000 per annum.

Well, let’s say it again. Increase population and cities go out and up. Sprawl occurs and densities rise. Canberra settles on a figure and state and local government have to live with it – and revise plans accordingly.

Barry can’t be a Big Australia supporter and an advocate of low density living. The two do not go together.

The councils were told by the previous government that they must plan for a 40 percent population rise by 2036. Yes, that reflects Canberra decision-making in favour of high intakes. (Canberra incidentally has the lowest density of any Australian city – that’s where the people live who settle on high immigration and they never face the consequences). For Warringah a 40 percent rise in population means 10,000 new houses. The council has settled on three and four story flats in the suburb of Naraweena as the way of achieving that.


The council is entitled to remind the government of infrastructure promises held out by the Coalition but never quite lodged in funded policy specifics – like  a bus transitway to the northern beaches.

Housing and infrastructure are in the fine print whenever you hear someone champion a Big Australia.

You want a Big Australia. Live with the consequences.

  1. June 9, 2011 12:49 pm

    Implicit in your argument is that governments won’t build more infrastructure and that Australian’s won’t accept higher density living. It is essential that governments need to get over their fear of major infrastructure projects. This is inhibiting many people, and much economic activity. The attitude of younger people today is more accepting of higher density living. This is something I have witnessed in Melbourne, which is beginning to embrace density significantly. Furthermore, Australia needs greater density in order to become a major player in the knowledge economy. Research has shown the links between density to the creation of ideas, especially diverse density. Cutting immigration will cut Australia off from the world.

    • Mr Squiggle permalink
      June 13, 2011 4:20 pm

      I’m surprised at the niaivity of this comment. 1) Melbourne isn’t embracing density at all, its reluctantly putting up with reduced living standards, sub standard services, increased violence etc.

      2), ‘knowledge economy’ doesn’t require greater density, it requires better information exchange, the whole point of information exchange is that it is enabling smaller, nimbler economies to compete

      3) Cutting immigration from 180,000 to 90,000 won’t cut Australia off from the world, what patent nonsense. It will give us the same number of immigrants over a longer period, giving more time to absorb, build our bridges, dams, infrastructure etc.

  2. Colin Smith permalink
    June 9, 2011 1:05 pm

    Why is it that many political commentators refer to “Canberra” when talking about decisions that The Federal Government makes?

    • June 9, 2011 1:51 pm

      It’s just shorthand for the Federal Government. It’s used the same way around the world – London, Washington, Paris, Ottawa, Beijing, New Delhi – using the capitals as a substitute for saying “the government”.

  3. Watson permalink
    June 9, 2011 1:17 pm

    As always the population is one of the factors in the multiplication of our impact on the earth. The other is how we live, how much we consume, how much energy we use, how efficient we are, how much we pollute, how much we recycle.
    We could double the population of Australia with people with a small carbon footprint and do considerably less harm to the environment and it would be able to cope, assuming that the immigrants continued to live as they do now. Unfortunately, what is likely to happen is that we will import people from their low impact economies and bring them into our high impact economy and encourage them to live like us. So a million people from South East Asian countries migrating to Australia will reduce the burden on those countries by 1 million, and increase the impact on Australia by the equivalent of 10 million South East Asians.

    Of course this assumes that the inevitable crunch doesn’t arrive, at which point all this speculation becomes irrelevant.

  4. Jimbo permalink
    June 9, 2011 2:15 pm

    It’s not population that’s the concern, it’s our consumption. The USA has 5% of the world’s population yet consumes 35% of the world’s resources. I’m not having a go at the US, nor am I saying we should grow for the sake of it.

    I’m simply making the point the point that other cities and nations are able to support populations greater than ours and still have attractive lifestyles.

    Almost all the cities that sit above Sydney in the annual Mercer Quality of Living index — Vienna, Zurich, Geneva & Vancouver, to name just a few — have a higher popualtion density than Sydney. It’s about good planning, not limiting or unlimiting growth.

    • Bob Carr permalink
      June 9, 2011 2:55 pm

      I want to hear just one of the advocates of higher immigration level with the Australian people and tell them higher immigration means transforming our cities into high density ones. Never heard it yet. Never.

      • Jimbo permalink
        June 9, 2011 4:12 pm

        Higher densities in first world countries like Australia lead to more interesting city centres. They create the critical mass needed to diversify the range of goods, services, entertainment and culture on offer. A small population base does not produce vibrant, energetic cultures.

        Think about the most interesting places to spend time in Sydney. They’re places where medium and high density living exists, not places like Marsfield, Menai or Merrylands (no offence to intended – I live near one of these places).

        I agree that some people are afraid of the prospect of higher densities. But like many fears, it’s borne out of a lack of understanding. That’s not your problem Bob and I respect the basis on which you hold your views.

        But the answer is better urban planning, not saying no to people.

    • June 9, 2011 9:32 pm

      Jimbo, it’s worth remembering that the US is also a massive manufacturer and exporter. The US still commands something like 25% of all manufacturing output. You know those planes that QANTAS and Virgin and BA and Singapore Airlines fly? They were all made in the USA (albeit with a certain amount of imported content etc etc). They use a lot of resources in making stuff, which is then sold to Australians and Nigerians and Indians and Chinese and French etc etc etc.

    • June 9, 2011 9:46 pm

      Vienna, Geneva and Zurich are liveable because they are extremely wealthy high density cities. Sydney has plenty of very liveable, high density areas with a high quality of life – and they have that because the residents are very wealthy. I’m thinking of places like Wollstonecraft, Woollahra, Paddington and Neutral Bay. There are other high density areas that are complete nightmares – such as public housing estates. It’s nothing to do with planning – it’s everything to do with the type of people who live there.

      I don’t know why “planning” gets such a good rap. The great and good always want to tell the rest of us how to live, regardless of our preferences. What’s so good about that?

  5. Stephen permalink
    June 9, 2011 2:26 pm

    “what is likely to happen is that we will import people from their low impact economies and bring them into our high impact economy”

    Interesting point Watson. If low-lying, highly populated areas such as Bangladesh and the Shanghai basin become uninhabitable Australia will be faced with significant pressure to increase its intake of migrants, which in turn will cause a surge in emmissions.

    On a related note I wonder whether, in advising councils to prepare for a population rise of 40 percent, Canberra sees this not as an objective, but as an inevitability?

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: