When Redland City’s population increases by 50,000, where will our residents live, work and play? This question is not adequately dealt with in the draft Economic Development Strategy released by Council for public review.
Presented below are some thoughts on the City’s projected population increase, trends in the City’s age profile and implications for the City’s planning scheme and economic development strategy.
Forecasting Redland City’s population increase?
The Queensland Government Statistician’s base case (Medium) projection is that by 2036 our City’s population will grow to 198,000 residents. This increase of about 50,000 or 33% is equivalent to average growth of 1.3% per year. Alternative (Low and High) projections range from 187,000 to 209,000. These official projections were published in 2013.
The chart below shows how these High, Medium and Low projections compare with Redland City’s current population of 149,000.
The Government’s projections assume that the rate of growth will decline slightly over time. Possibly, the Government Statistician thinks that fertility and immigration rates will decline in future years. Alternatively, land availability assumptions may limit growth. Or perhaps the growth rate is arbitrarily trimmed to avoid very big population numbers in later years. Redland City’s population would double in less than 50 years if we extended the 1.5% per year growth rate between 2016 and 2021, used by the Government in its Medium series projection.
There will be lots more older people in Redland City
The age profile of the Redlands population will change a lot over the next two decades. Data from the Government’s Medium series forecast is available in age groups.
Using this data we have produced a chart which shows that there will be a significant increase in the number of older people in the Redlands.
The number of people in the 60-79 age group will nearly double and there will be a dramatic increase in the number of people aged over 80. The number of people in age bands below 60 will increase very little.
Managing growth for improved outcomes
Redland City has some scope to influence the rate at which its population increases.
If the community thought that it would be desirable to have a population growing very rapidly then the City Council could do things like:
- Facilitate more land being available for housing
- Encourage higher density accommodation by having fewer planning controls
- Invest in marketing campaigns to attract more people to move into this area
On the other hand, the community could require the Council to trim population growth for various reasons such as:
- Ensure that quality of life is maintained through less “crowding”
- Avoid impacts on areas with high environmental values
- Reduce community investment in infrastructure required whenever new residential accommodation is built
To illustrate the impact of taking a proactive approach we consider a Reducing Growth scenario. This is based on the assumption that growth for the five years to 2016 will average 1.2% per year but for each later five year period, growth will be reduced by 0.2%. So by the time we get to 2031, growth will be about 0.4% per year.
A Reducing Growth strategy could be implemented through measures such as restricting new greenfield developments and ensuring limits on the density of infill residential accommodation. This would mean that by 2036 there might be only 26,000 additional people in Redland City compared with the 50,000 extra people forecast in the Government’s base case projection.
A “Rapid Growth” scenario is also examined, using annual population growth of 1.8% per year like Redland City has experienced in recent times. Under this “Rapid Growth” scenario, Redland City’s population in 2036 would increase by 73,000 or 49%.
The Reducing Growth and Rapid Growth scenarios are charted below, together with the Government’s base case Medium series projection shown in the first chart. This chart shows a wide range of possible potential population outcomes by 2036.
What does this mean for the Redlands City Plan 2015
The City Plan 2015, currently under development, is driven by Redland City’s population increase assumptions. A rapidly growing population needs more residential accommodation, infrastructure and services. With an increasing number of people aged over 60 there will be significant implications for how accommodation, recreation and health care facilities evolve in our City.
In its planning and strategy work, Redland City should be answering questions such as:
- What population growth rate would be best for the City, and why?
- What should we do now, to have growth at the desired rate?
- What flexibility do we need, to deal with more or less population growth?
Population Growth and the draft Economic Development Strategy for Redland City
We have already made some general comments about the draft Economic Development Strategy and its lack of specific initiatives. The Council’s draft Economic Development Strategy has very little to say about future population growth in Redland City. The document should be providing us with analysis of what might happen (scenarios) and suggestions as to what should happen (strategies).
The revised Economic Development Strategy should also build on work already done by the community and Council. In particular, attention should be given to the community’s aspirations as set out in the Redlands 2030 Community Plan. Consideration should also be given to the Redlands Sustainability Study which discusses a range of measurable indicators of economic, environmental and social well being.
Instead all we get is advice that Council has adopted a “growth measure” of having 1.2% annual average population growth to the year 2041. This growth rate is very close to the Government’s long term projection of what will happen. So the strategy is in essence to take whatever is served up and do nothing proactive to increase the prospects of a better future for our community.
A myth often circulated is that we should increase the City’s population to get more City revenue from rates. Of course when the City’s population increases, new people add to demand for public infrastructure and Council services which are paid for with rates. So having more ratepayers does not automatically reduce the burden on existing ratepayers.
The rate of population growth will impact significantly on the Redlands economy. If our population grows rapidly, where will the extra Redland City people live,work and play?
There may be some economic benefits from an increasing total population like increased local demand for goods and services. Downsides could include congestion and overcrowding with economic, social and environmental consequences.
How will the forecast changes to the age profile of our community affect our economy? Our workforce will look quite different. People will spend their leisure time differently: perhaps there will be less touch footy and more golf being played. Public and private investment will be affected in many sectors of the economy.
These are just a few of the important issues that need to be dealt with more comprehensively in the Economic Development Strategy, to make our community a better place in years to come.