Friday, 11 December 2009

population changes and (mis?) management

I was reading this morning in the Australian says that our population is "growing the fastest since the 1960s and double the global average. Net immigration accounted for two-thirds of this people boom".

It went on to put a number on that, we had 511,000 new arrivals last financial year.

Give or take, that's a population the size of the Gold Coast just sprouting up.

What the hell

There is the viewpoint that we need to grow our population in Australia. Well this is the growth in the population of 3 major cities since between 1911 and 2001.

3AussieCitiesPopThese three cities account for nearly half the Australian population.

To explain the graph a little I put Brisbane on a different scale to the others because unlike Sydney or Melbourne (which over the period have increased in population by around six times) Brisbane has had its population grow by nearly twelve times since 1911 (From 139,480 to 1,650,422)

This represents a startling management challenge, which I think anyone who lives in these cities may feel has not been entirely well performed.

Also, anyone who lived in any of these cities has seen amazing changes in how life is in those cities every 10 years.

When I moved to Brisbane in 1983 it was a nice sprawling country town. There was not insane traffic and you could get out into the countryside quite easily.

At that time the population was 1,028,527 ... but when I left in 2001 it had swollen to 1,619,280 and you could really notice the difference. Traffic was worse, public attitude was more strained and road rage and other less than ideal social problem was on the rise ... so lifestyle was certainly not better.

I imagine Sydney has undergone similar changes (although perhaps not as straining as Brisbane).

But I wonder if this is in our interests in Australia ... I mean really.

Firstly Australia has a really poor record of environmental management, and I'm not just talking about how we manage our natural heritage (which should be a national shame), I am talking about how we've been managing our agriculture and forestry practices. Look at the Murray Darling crisis for just a start.

Our politicians espouse protecting our lifestyle, but seem to be busily facilitating its erosion.

I grew up on the Gold Coast, it was a nice place back then ... quite but pretty. Its been turned into a massive tourist point and people are relocating there at a rate which defies understanding. This has resulted in the destruction of vast areas of mangroves and other critical habitat for allowing everyone to have a "water front" villa.

Don't just take my word for this ... Google (bless its little heart) has given us the tools to go check out these sorts of things without having to invest huge amounts of money and time ... have a look below

View Larger Map

If you like fishing, you can kiss good by to this area as the great fishing spot it once was ... mangroves are going and so too are the breeding grounds for fish. Not to mention the increased pressure on fishing created by the increasing population. As boat traffic is manic (along with the jetSki's I can't even enjoy sailing there anymore.

The urban sprawl is encroaching inland too, and what were previously lovely areas (habitat for wildlife) are being cleared to become just another urban wasteland.

Its like this all up and down the coast, from Coffs Harbour to Rainbow beach. Matter of fact its pretty built up between Coffs and Sydney ... and I'm willing to bet its not empty between Sydney and Melbourne?

Used to be that my family and I could live in a place where we could go fishing and enjoy walks along the shore


and we could find wildlife not far from our homes ...



Its fast disappearing ... So what are we doing to ourselves and for what benefit?

Work colleagues who owned land in the "hinterland" have sold up to developers to turn it all to urban corridor all the way between Brisbane and Southport. Much of this change can be attributed to the growth in population ... but is it good?

Lucky for us others are seeming to ask the same questions.


Noons said...

I drove from Port Maquarie back to Kew through the coastal road about 6 months ago.

It's amazing how much construction has taken place: for a distance of nearly 60kms I don't recall ever losing sight of houses along the coast!

Not very deep, mind you. But one after another after another, side by side, on and on...

Not saying it's bad, in fact the area has apparently benefitted: some of the smaller towns now have large supermarkets, hospitals, sports areas and other facilities that 20 years ago would only be found in the Port or at Taree.

But is it sustainable? I don't think so. To build like that, we're forever becoming dependent on the almighty car. It should be the opposite. And building the infrastructure for all those houses over such a large area, water supply, sewage, waste disposal, electricity, etcetc, can't be efficient!

And I'm not sure it's being built for productive populations. The opposite is probably true: the productive ages are now in major cities, while these coastal areas are being populated more and more by retirees.

I'm not a town planner nor do I understand squat about it, but I can't help think this sort of development is not the best use of our land...

obakesan said...


>It's amazing how much construction has taken place: for a
>distance of nearly 60kms I don't recall ever losing sight of
>houses along the coast!


>And building the infrastructure for all those houses over such
>a large area, water supply, sewage, waste disposal,
>electricity, etcetc, can't be efficient!

its not ... actually its a bigger problem than most people think. The developer fees (on developing the land) don't actually cover the costs at all, as I understood it so far they have been using that to subsidise the ongoing costs of the existing infrastructure (which they have been letting slide as they can't afford to do it properly)

Few if any know the real costs of this massive distributed network of stuff. It is only relatively recently that COAG stipulated that Cost Recovery be a requirement in major public works.

Clearly before this period the adventures of utility supply such as water, sewerage and electricity were undertaken as either public welfare or projects of prestiege (we can't be seen as a third world developing nation, so if the Yanks have water on tap we should too).

Until the 90's we had no concept of effectiveness and even still the billing structures are such as you have no choice but to pay, are not really usage based, alternatives (including doing it yourself) are against legislation and when there is any "drought" you face water restrictions.

All the disadvantages of Communism combined with few of the real advantages of a Free Market private system.