Redlands2030 continues assessing the South East Queensland Regional Plan review process. Today we look at the Grow theme which deals with the implications of continual population growth within the region over the next 25 years.
Another 1.3 million people could be living in south east Queensland by 2014 according to the Government’s population forecasts.
The Government’s web site is disappointingly simplistic in its framing of discussion about population growth. A total of 103 words and one graph about one of the cornerstone issues facing the region – continuous population growth.
It then goes on to ask the “hard hitting” questions of “What kinds of houses do you think we’ll need in the future?” Will a regional plan dictate what form of housing is to be built – unlikely). Dumbing down has reached a new low.
A more useful way to lead this discussion would be to provide some analysis of where future population growth should occur to best maximise social, economic and environmental benefits. Some options regarding different models of growth management (e.g. sprawl, growth boundaries, densities or even decentralisation) would be useful.
Unfortunately the State has refused to grasp this nettle and we just have a blank canvas to do what we wish, but not in a way that will be useful from a regional planning perspective. One could be cynical in thinking this is what they wished for anyway and population distribution models are already drawn up.
There is no certainty that future projections will lead to actual growth. Population growth has many influences, some of which are subjected to demographic trends (births, deaths and longevity), as well as internal and external migration patterns and other factors such as job opportunities and perceived liveability. At one stage SEQ was growing at 1,000 people a week. Now it is experiencing slightly negative population growth. So projections are not necessarily destiny. And from a planning perspective “trend is not destiny” and so planning should be dictating outcomes not following trends.
Issues to be addressed in the context of a population growth discussion should include:
- Infill /greenfield split. What percentage spilt is most desirable? More infill or more greenfield?
- Housing type. What split of housing type is more desirable? Should we have more detached dwellings or are people more comfortable in townhouses, flats or high rise apartments?
- Lot size. How low can you go – 250sq sqm? What sort of distribution split should be provided in master plan estates?
- Transit Oriented Development. Is there a link between living next to a major train or bus station and the proposed density of development surrounding this station?
- Population growth and distribution. In the Queensland Plan it was agreed State growth would be 50% in the SEQ Region and 50% in regional areas. What is the status of the “approved” Queensland Plan?
A wider and more useful role from a regional planning perspective would be to place any proposed future population increase within a measurable sustainable development framework that provides some principle rules that must be met by future growth.
“Planning” for future population growth has, to date, existed within separate and not always entirely integrated disciplines. Traditionally, land use planning has sought to draw together and harmonise these different disciplines into a holistic plan.
In reality, once the plans have been made, they simply serve as a signpost. All too often they are run over, by the “4 wheel drive” of segmented decision making.
Even worse, decisions by separate government agencies and local governments are too often at odds with the Regional Plan. In reality, the fiefdoms of individual agencies are hard to corral to an agreed whole-of-government regional outcome (or set of outcomes). The big agencies like Transport and Main Roads, Health and Education pay lip service to a regional plan delivered by the less influential Department of Planning!
Gaming by the property development industry also undermines regional plans, see the pertinent discussion in Clean Money in a Dirty System: Relationship Networks and Land Rezoning in Queensland ).
Population growth in discrete areas should be linked to tangible benefits that are in turned linked to guaranteed infrastructure or services delivered by the responsible agency.
Missing links for SEQ planning
Queenslands’s regional planning missing links include:
- Formally acknowledging (i.e. publicly documenting) the burden that future population growth will place on the region
- Outlining the gap between the current and the future that must be addressed to accommodate this future growth (i.e. what must be provided or conserved)
- Stating in clear terms how these gaps are intended to be addressed (e.g. through allocation of resources)
- Monitoring and reporting back to the regional community on a yearly basis how this program of works and expenditure is progressing
- Evaluating and reporting progress in the implementation of approved plans (and the announcing new or review processes) which are “sold” as new or stand alone planning initiatives that show little regard for previous community and NGO contributions
- Acknowledging efforts of the non-government sector, professional and community organisations in the planning and delivery of regional outcomes, and mobilising community input
- Assessing community input to previous iterations of the SEQ Regional Plan and more recently the Queensland Plan.
The ideological shift of elected governments should not be used to shield the current government and contemporary planning arrangements from previous community input. The trashing of previous community and NGO input shows a lack of respect for the efforts of these largely voluntary sectors.