Policy report

Australia’s largest cities are facing a watershed moment in their growth and development. In the coming 30 years the size of the Australian population will grow substantially. Between 2017 and 2046, Australia’s population is projected to increase by 11.8 million people. That’s equivalent to adding a new city, roughly the size of Canberra, each year for the next 30 years.

About 75% of this growth will occur in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. Growth on this scale will transform these cities. A growing population is an exciting opportunity to increase our national economic prosperity and liveability. The potential benefits are immense.

But Australians face a complex set of choices regarding what this change will look like. Are our cities going to grow out or up? How do we align the location of jobs with the needs of our changing economy? How do our infrastructure networks need to change to accommodate more demand? How can we ensure the world-class liveability of our cities is maintained and enhanced?

These are difficult decisions, with each requiring tradeoffs and compromise. But inaction is not an option, nor is business as usual. If we fail to effectively anticipate and respond to growth, the likely results will be declining economic productivity, increasing environmental pressures and a marked reduction in each city’s quality of life.

We must act now to preserve and enhance the elements of each city that make them such attractive places to live and work.

This paper identifies the choices facing our largest cities and the best pathways to respond. It:

1. provides independent advice to Australian governments on how to respond to the challenges and opportunities of growth

2. provides the community with accessible information on the potential outcomes of growth and change in their cities

3. demonstrates the value of more innovative strategic planning tools and calls on Australian governments to increase the sophistication of their long-term planning practices.

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