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Australia’s urban boom: the latest evidence

Tim Colebatch writes in Inside Story (5.4.16) about the growing pressures being placed upon infrastructure and services in Australia’s major cities as their populations continue to expand.

‘Sometime over the next three months, Sydney’s population will reach five million. If Melbourne keeps growing at its current pace, by 2020 it too will have five million residents – and it won’t stay that size for long.

‘New figures published by the Bureau of Statistics last week estimate that in just five years to mid 2015, the number of people living in Melbourne grew by more than 10 per cent. That’s like adding the entire population of Canberra and Queanbeyan in just five years.

‘If our big cities keep growing at the same pace as in the past five years – Melbourne by 2 per cent a year, Sydney by 1.6 per cent – by 2050 Melbourne will have nine million people, and Sydney almost 8.5 million. Even if Melbourne’s growth slowed to something like Sydney’s pace, over the next fifty years both cities would add roughly a million more people per decade.

‘They’re not alone. In the past decade, Perth has added almost half a million people, although its growth slowed sharply in 2014–15. Brisbane’s growth has been subdued in recent years, but by 2050, on reasonable projections, both cities will be about the size that Melbourne and Sydney are now.

‘The numbers are kind of breathtaking. Yet they don’t explain what’s really going on, or the consequences for us now – let alone in the future.’

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