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By Michael Yardney
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Australia’s Population Surge: Navigating the Uncharted Waters of Urban Planning

key takeaways

Key takeaways

Australia's population ticked over the 27-million mark last week, a milestone we've hit a staggering 30 years ahead of schedule.

The ramifications for our housing, infrastructure, and urban planning are profound.

This explosive growth has concrete implications for our living spaces and the shape of our cities.

It's an ironclad law of Australian property and population planning—we invariably underestimate our growth and fall shy of our housing targets.

As Australia's population ticked rolled over to the 27-million mark last week, a milestone we've hit a staggering 30 years ahead of schedule, the ramifications for our housing, infrastructure, and urban planning are profound.

The Treasury's Intergenerational Report of 2002 had us pegged at a more modest 23.4 million by now; however, we're not just beating the odds—we're rewriting the playbook.

Au Population 2

Demographer Mark McCrindle has weighed in, highlighting the discrepancies between past predictions and our present reality.

“Though subsequent Intergenerational Report's updated the population growth, they still got the forecast very wrong.

 When we plan our roads, public transport, and housing, we're looking two decades ahead," he notes.

"But our population growth has overshot the forecasts so dramatically that our housing supplies are rooted in outdated projections.

The problem of Australia's population increases massively outstripping the predictions is that the housing supply has been based on the wrong numbers.

With the current growth, Australia will reach 50 million by 2054, 23 million more than forecasted just 22 years ago, and this highlights the significant challenges we face for infrastructure, resources, and city planning."

And it's not just about the numbers

Australia saw its largest population surge last year, swelling by over 641,000—more than the entire population of Tasmania.

This isn't merely a statistic; it's a clarion call to rethink how we plan our cities and suburbs.

McCrindle points out that the foundations for projects like the Western Sydney Aerotropolis are laid out with a 20 to 30-year horizon.

If the data from two decades ago is askew, it's no surprise our current urban development seems out of step with our needs.

The Treasury's forecasts were off-kilter not because of poor modeling back in 2002, but because policies have dramatically diverged from long-standing averages, sending projections into a tailspin.

For example, while the average annual net population increase from migration hovered around 235,000 over the last decade, the past 12 months alone have seen a spike to 518,000.

That's more than double the long-term average!

This explosive growth has concrete implications for our living spaces and the shape of our cities.

With a population now more than 27 million people, the gaps in our urban fabric are becoming ever more apparent.

The Albanese government's goal to build 1.2 million new homes is ambitious, yet according to McCrindle's perspective, it's likely to fall short of the mark and I agree.

McCrindle explains:

"It's an ironclad law of Australian property and population planning—we invariably underestimate our growth and fall shy of our housing targets."

Au Population 3

So, what's the way forward?

Mark  McCrindle advises a recalibration of migration growth to align with historical averages—circa 230,000 to 240,000 per annum.

He also suggests restoring the balance between natural population increase and migration.

Historically, natural increase outpaced migration, but for the past 30 years, the tables have turned.

He suggests setting a new ceiling where migration constitutes two-thirds of population growth could provide a much-needed framework for sustainable expansion.

As we grapple with these demographic dynamics, the challenge is clear: it's time to harmonize our policies with the pulse of our population.

Only then can we lay the groundwork for an Australia that's ready for tomorrow.

About Michael Yardney Michael is a director of Metropole Property Strategists who help their clients grow, protect and pass on their wealth through independent, unbiased property advice and advocacy. He's once again been voted Australia's leading property investment adviser and one of Australia's 50 most influential Thought Leaders. His opinions are regularly featured in the media.
2 comments

"It's an ironclad law of Australian property and population planning—we invariably underestimate our growth and fall shy of our housing targets." I don't understand why this is the case. Surely it's our federal government that dictates our "popula ...Read full version

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