Western Australia home to the country’s fastest growing council regions: Cameron Kusher
By Cameron Kusher
Queensland’s capital city, Brisbane, is the largest municipality in Australia. There are 1,110,473 people that live in Brisbane, comprising just fewer than 5% of Australia’s population. The second largest council, which is also in the south-east corner of Queensland, is the Gold Coast where the population is less than half that of Brisbane’s at 526,173 persons.
In fact, four of the top five council regions (including the entirety of the ACT) are located in south-east Queensland; the other two are Moreton Bay and Sunshine Coast. These four council regions alone account for slightly more than 10% of the national population.
Not only is the Brisbane City Council region large in both area and population, it is growing rapidly. Over the past 10 years the area has increased in population by about 20,200 persons each year or nearly 1,700 new residents every month.
There are some benefits of having a large council. The taxation base is larger providing some economy of scale and the urban planning and approval process tends to be much more streamlined.
The fastest growing council regions:
Six out of the top ten fastest growing council regions around the country are located across Western Australia and four of them are in the Perth metro area. The Perth Council has recorded a population growth rate of 125% over the ten years to June 2012 to reach a population of roughly 19,000 residents. The population growth rate across the Perth council area remains high at 3.7% over the 2011/12 financial year, however, councils like Serpentine-Jarrahdale (+8.1%), Kwinana (+6.6%), Armidale (+5.9%) and Wanneroo (+5.6%) have been outpacing Perth over the most recent 2011/12 period.
Rapid population growth provides both positive and negative factors for local governments. The positive is that population growth is stimulatory – more people means a larger tax base and more demand for housing which provides a multiplier effect on the local economy as higher demand for housing translates to more employment, building materials, white goods, home furnishings etc.
The challenge with rapid population growth is to ensure infrastructure and local amenity keeps pace with the population. More people means more traffic, a greater requirement for public transport, health care, schooling, retail facilities etc. Delivering on infrastructure is expensive and is the area where many governments simply fail to deliver.
The fastest shrinking council regions:
The regions where population growth is in significant decline can broadly be described as regional areas often associated with agriculture. Five of the top 10 regions where the population is shrinking the most rapidly are located across Western Australia’s wheat belt. Camamah (-30.1%), Dalwallinu (-27.8%), Mukinbudin (-27.7%) and Wyalkatchem (-20.6%) are seeing their population dropping from an already low level.
The trend towards smaller populations across these rural areas is nothing new and is likely to continue as the average population of these areas grows older and younger cohorts move away. A declining population creates other issues including a lack of social diversity.
The challenge for many of these areas is to continue providing infrastructure and services across a lower taxation base. These regions are extremely large in area which compounds the costs involved in servicing the sparse population.
The councils with the highest population densities:
Nine of the 10 most densely populated council regions are located within the Sydney metro area. The most densely populated council is Waverley where there are just over 7,500 residents per square kilometre. The council includes popular suburbs such as Bondi, Tamarama, Dover Heights, Bronte and the Waverley. About 80% of Waverly dwellings are units or semi-attached.
The regions with the highest population density tend to be located very close to the central business districts of each capital city and are of course synonymous with fewer detached homes, more apartments and town houses, efficient public transport systems and wide range of facilities and social options close by.
Cameron Kusher is senior research analyst at RP Data.