Australia’s population is expected to reach 42 million by 2050, with the lion’s share of people living in urban centres.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ latest release, the country’s population has been fast migrating from remote areas to inner city areas, leading to big cities becoming overcrowded.
By June 2012, the population density was three people per square kilometre across Australia. The Australian Capital Territory had the highest population density at 160 people per square kilometre, followed by Victoria at 25, New South Wales at 9.1 and Tasmania at 7.5. The remaining states and territories all had lower population densities, with the Northern Territory having only 0.2 people per square kilometre.
From 2011 to 2012, all territories experienced population growth. Victoria was at the top with an increase of 89,000 people, with Queensland coming in at 86,000, New South Wales third at 78,900 and Western Australia fourth with an increase of 78,000 people.
Over this time period, suburbs within capital cities and inland rural areas have experienced a decline in density of inhabitants while inner cities and infill areas next to the coast have become more popular.
Eight of the country’s 10 most densely-populated areas were in Greater Sydney, including Pyrmont – Ultimo, which had the highest population density in Australia, at 13,900 people per square kilometre, Potts Point – Woolloomooloo (13,600), Darlinghurst (13,200) and Surry Hills (13,100). These areas all surround Sydney’s central business district.
In Melbourne, the greatest population densities are located in the inner city, which has 10,100 people per square kilometre and in the Carlton suburb (8,400.)
In Greater Brisbane, the highest population densities are in New Farm (6,000 people per square kilometre) and Kangaroo Point (5,800).
The Centre of Population tool helps to measure the spatial distribution of Australia’s population. It consists of identifying a spatial point that marks the average latitude and longitude around which the population is distributed.
By June 2012, Australia’s Centre of Population was located 34 kilometres from Ivanhoe, a small town in western New South Wales. This shows the concentration of population in southeastern Australia. Between 2011 and 2012, the centre of population moved 5.1 kilometres to the west, reflecting a high population growth in Western Australia over that year.
According to social researcher and demographer, Mark McDrindle, Australia’s growth levels are currently far above from those of other developed nations.
“We can say that Australia has world-beating population growth right now. The world is growing 1.1 per cent per annum and Australia [at] 1.7 per cent is really out in front,” he said.
With the number of births doubling the number of deaths and a 14 per cent increase in migration, the result is 180,000 people being added to Australia’s population per year. McDrindle added that population growth is mostly the outcome of immigration and predicts that Australia’s population will hit 40 million by 2050.
As a consequence, cities such as Melbourne and Sydney will turn into high-rise megacities on the scale of Hong Kong, which can lead to a drastic deterioration in citizens’ quality of life.
Overpopulation in Australia is not a new problem.
Two years ago, Professor Robert Birrell, one of the country’s leading demographers at Monash University, conducted research to find potential solutions for the future development of cities and warned that cities like Sydney and Melbourne would need to be completely redesigned.
“We have to get down to that figure quickly, in the next few years,” he said. “It’s to do with economies of scale – to refit a city is an enormous exercise.”