WHAT these advocates are really aiming for is not a population of 36 Million for Australia by 2050 but a population of 80 to 100 million by the end of the 21st Century!
The LNP have turned the sods for a second airport to fly ’em in …
How come Austria with a population of only 8 million people has one of the best RAIL systems in the World? That would appear to refute the argument that we have to have a big population to run an efficient World-class Rail Network …
Even in the 1950s ‘Spartan era’ following WW 2 families were able to build a home and pay the mortgage on one income before high immigration …
‘Throw open the borders’: Why double immigration will save Australia’s choking cities
A SHOCK new claim that Australia needs to double the number of migrants will fuel heated debate about Australia’s population targets.
AUSTRALIA needs to throw open its borders and at least double the annual immigration intake in order to save our choking cities, a leading planning expert believes.
While we’re at it, developers must focus on significantly denser and more compact urban spaces instead of sprawling further and further out for the sake of backyards.
The only alternative is to watch our major capitals crumble and lose their first world status, Shane Geha, managing director of EG Urban Planning, warns.
“I understand there’s some strong rhetoric about cutting immigration and slowing population growth, but it’s just wrong,” Dr Geha said.
“Our future depends on immigration. Strong population growth and significantly higher density living is the solution to our problems and any contrary suggestion is just nonsense.”
The leading planning expert’s view is at odds with many — including the Federal Government, which has flagged reviews of both migration and population growth.
A furious debate was reignited when Australia’s population hit 25 million last month; a figure that in the late 1990s experts projected wouldn’t be reached until 2050.
Public figures from Senator Pauline Hanson to business entrepreneur Dick Smith argue growth is a recipe for disaster, with our cities struggling to support their current resident bases.
“We have pretty small cities by world standards — four or five million is quite small,” Dr Geha said.
“In my view, our cities aren’t too dense. In fact, they’re not nearly dense enough and we can increase it substantially with some great benefits attached.”
WE NEED TO IMPORT PEOPLE
Australians aren’t having nearly enough children to replace the ageing population, and that will spell trouble not too far down the road, Dr Geha said.
“The only age group that produces taxation revenue in Australia is the 20 to 60 demographic, which is productive cohort generating plenty of revenue for the country,” he said.
“Our tax revenue base is ageing rapidly and only 48 per cent of our population is in that demographic. Less than half of us pay 100 per cent of the income taxation revenue for the country.”
In the next two decades, that figure is expected to fall to 44 per cent or lower, he said, and pretty soon after that sink to a number that’s unsustainable.
“Either you’ll have to hike income tax rates and the GST to maintain existing services, or you’ll have to reduce standards,” Dr Geha said.
Australia’s population is now projected to reach 36 million by 2046, but Dr Geha said even that isn’t sufficient or happening quickly enough.
The solution is to “import” a significant number of people in that tax-producing age bracket who can flood Canberra’s coffers with cash.
But Australia’s migrant intake fell to its lowest level in a decade in 2017, with just 162,000 new permanent residents accepted.
“I think we need to double the migration intake — at least,” Dr Geha said.
He points to Japan as an example of what can happen when birthrates drop and there aren’t enough foreign arrivals to top it up.
“Japan is going through a 30-year recession because they have a rapidly shrinking tax base, an ageing population, people aren’t having children and they have zero immigration. They are in big trouble with no conceivable way out.”
Migrants will help to stimulate the economy — especially if industries experiencing critical skills shortages are prioritised — and provide the long-term tax income to pay for infrastructure.
As the income tax revenue shrinks, the alternative is for governments to borrow to pay for the things cities need, he said.
“Sure, we can explode our sovereign debt to build infrastructure to everywhere over the next two or three generations, but I don’t think that’s a great idea. We’ll end up like Greece.”
GO DENSE OR GO HOME
Professor Billie Giles-Corti from RMIT and director of the Centre for Urban Research’s Liveable Cities Research Group said density is how cities can improve liveability.
“The major message is about the urgent need to increase the density of our cities and to make them more compact,” Prof Giles-Corti said.
Housing policy in most cities sets a benchmark of around 15 homes per hectare, which she said is far too few and doesn’t provide enough people to support quality infrastructure, services and amenity.
“You look at Fitzroy in Melbourne and it’s around 25 to 30 houses per hectare. That’s not hardship-living — it’s pretty good. People want to live there. There’s a lot of amenity and good public transport.
“When there are lots of people to support it, you get good services, good shops, good public transport and good amenity.”
Urban sprawl on the fringes of cities was once seen as a solution to housing affordability, she said, but in most cases it has failed spectacularly.
“We build affordable housing on the fringe of cities but those people are the ones experiencing housing affordability stress,” Prof Giles-Corti said.
“It’s not surprising really because they have to pay a lot of transport — they might need to run two or three cars because they can’t walk anywhere, there are no cycle facilities and there aren’t frequent and reliable public transport services.
“So while the housing is more affordable comparatively, the actual cost of living isn’t.”
A better approach is to increase density via a mix of housing options, particularly along existing rail corridors in the form of transit-oriented development, she said.
“I’m not necessarily talking high-rise. I’m talking compact.”
A focus on public transport will mean more people without the increased traffic, she said.
Dr Geha agrees and said compact density around transport nodes would see the need for cars drop and have a range of benefits for communities.
“If you lived within 300m or 400m of a transport mode and you had some serious density there, those neighbourhoods would thrive.”
But it needs to be world-class transport otherwise people won’t use it, he said.
“The car is advanced, private and beautiful, that’s all true. But you only need to go to LA to know what it’s like to live in a city where you must drive.
“There are 11-lane highways in LA that are car parks for four hours of the day. A disbursed city model with no public transport is a disaster. It is an example of what not to do.
“It doesn’t matter if you build 11 lanes or 50 or 100. If everything needs a car, you’ll have traffic jams — not to mention the environmental and productivity problems.”
MAKE OUR CITIES BIGGER
Cities like Sydney and Melbourne should make targets to double their current populations as soon as practically and sustainably possible, Dr Geha said.
Not only would it provide demand for denser development and the things that come with it, but it would stimulate micro-economies and build a case for ambitious infrastructure projects.
“If Sydney had a population of 10 million and Melbourne had a population of eight million, you could start construction straight away on a high-speed rail route,” he said.
“You could travel between the two in under two hours. Just imagine the wonderful impact of that.”
High speed rail is a kind of pie-in-the-sky idea that’s floated every couple of years and probed by committees.
A study in 2013 that examined a 1750km high-speed route connecting Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne found it would cost around $114 billion.
At the moment it’s not a viable option, Dr Geha said.
When it comes to planning our cities, he said the European model of urban spaces is an example of best practice, where people live in dense housing close to transport and services.
“You catch public transport to and from work. You grab your laundry on the way home. You get some groceries down the road. Everything you need is conveniently located. It’s a safe, mixed-use precinct.
“That’s where I’d like to see Sydney and Melbourne head. And they will have to. Affordability tells us that.”
In most of Sydney’s middle ring suburbs, you need at least $1.1 million on average for a home and about $800,000 for a unit.
A generation of young Australians face the prospect of never owning a home as a result. Density won’t just solve the liveability problem — it’ll improve affordability, Dr Geha said.
DENSITY ISN’T THE DEVIL
The debate surrounding population growth has been at fever pitch for a few years and a recent Four Corners episode featured a handful of experts warning of the dire implications.
Sustainable Australia founder William Bourke said if our current growth rate continues, suburban values such as cars and houses with backyards will become extinct.
“If our population growth continues at this rate, you’ll be taxed out of owning your own car,” he said.
“This is not just 36 million by 2050. We’re talking about a population of 80 to 100 million people by the end of the 21st century.”
But Dr Geha said the alternatives to density are expensive, inefficient and usually unliveable.
If it’s properly managed and backed by strategic and sound planning evidence, he believes density can be a good thing.
“Density has almost become a dirty word. But I truly think it’s the solution — and the way to save ourselves.
“It just makes sense. For every rail or road kilometre, even electricity and pipes, you get maximum benefit if you have more density.”
Prof Giles-Corti said density done badly can be hugely damaging on communities and some famous examples of failure probably make people nervous.
“I think there’s concern about density, and I share some of the community’s concern about density. When density is done badly it can cause harm.
“People worry about what density will do to their suburb. But we can do it well and in a way that communities will embrace and benefit from.”
Progress has been slow and there are some big barriers to overcome.
“I’m optimistic because I love this country and I want to see it be the best it can be,” Dr Geha said.
“We have embraced the notion that endless sprawl is really bad. It’s very inefficient and undesirable. But have we understood that we need density to make our cities work better? I don’t think we have.”