Sunday, December 30, 2007

NSW Demographic Snapshot as at 30 June 2006 - fastest growing councils 1

Streetscape: Inner Sydney

As at 30 June 2006, NSW as a whole had a population of 6.8 million.

Over the 2001-2006 census period, the state has a whole had an average annual population growth of 0.7%. However, this average concealed major variations at local level.

A list of the ten fastest growing local government areas follows ranked by annual average population growth over 2002-2006. It is a polyglot lot.

  • Sydney 4.9%
  • Palerang 3.5%
  • Auburn 3%
  • Strathfield 2.7%
  • Baulkham Hills 2.6%
  • Yass Valley 2.6%
  • Camden 2.3%
  • Queanbeyan 2.3%
  • Tweed 2.2%
  • Canada Bay 2%

The City of Sydney covers the CBD and immediately surrounding suburbs. In blogging terms, this is where James O'Brien, Neil Whitfield or for that matter I now live, since the last boundary changes added my suburb to the City of Sydney.

This is the Sydney that visitors know best since it includes the city itself with its attractions, as well as the surrounding gallery and restaurant areas.

In the period 2001-2006 the population of the City of Sydney grew from 129,696 to 164,547, marking a continuing and fundamental demographic shift.

This is the oldest area of Sydney, with the city core surrounded by many once working class areas where the workers lived who serviced the city and port, as well as the factories located in the inner city ring. A place of distinct localities. This was also the place where many intellectuals clustered, of bohemian life style.

Sydney has become gentrified and increasingly flatified as the factories closed, the original workers moved out and the middle class moved in. Recently, I have watched as the apartment blocks moved west along the main arteries, getting closer and closer to the street in which we live. Now the factories across the road are for sale.

This is increasingly a city of the younger professionals, of singles or share households attracted by the metro lifestyle. It has the lowest birth rate in NSW (0.91 babies per woman as compared to a state average of 1.79), as well as the lowest proportion of people holding a driving license (61% of those over 16 as compared to a state average of 83%).

For more demographic information on Sydney see Teasing Neil - but with a serious point.

Palerang, the next fastest growing local government area, caused a mental block for the moment. The size of its population, up from 10,876 to 12,913 over the census period, suggested a country location. But I could not remember where. But then, checking, I found I knew it very well indeed, just under its previous name.

Now that I know where it is, I should deal with it, Queanbeyan and Yass together since their growth is all linked.

At time of Federation, no one would agree with either Sydney or Melbourne becoming capital of the new Commonwealth of Australia, so a decision was made to build a new capital. This led to the creation of the Australian Capital Territory and the development of Canberra.

Canberra is one of the elephants in the NSW room, and not just because of the role of the national government.

The ACT's population is now just over 338,000, growing by 1.5% in the twelve months to 30 March 2007. This growth has spread into the adjoining areas of Yass, Queanbeyan and Palerang.

Queanbeyan is just over the ACT border to the south, a bit over 11k from Parliament House. Between 2001 and 2006, its population grew from 33,765 to 37,855, giving an annual average growth rate of 2.3%.

I lived in Queanbeyan, so know the place well. Queanbeyan began as a rural service centre, then grew because it housed the workers building Canberra. Canberra was dry at the time, so this is also where Canberra people went to have a drink.

This was one of the first truly polycultural communities in Australia, drawing workers from many parts of southern and eastern Europe. As they became wealthier and built bigger houses in Queanbeyan and Canberra, they developed styles we described in the early seventies as Italian Modern and Yugoslav Gothic, the start of the huge house on the small block now so common in Sydney.

Campaigning in Queanbeyan as I did was always interesting because of the variety of home produced food and drink offered in hospitality. This was strong, traditional Labor territory, so re-building the Country Party base was an interesting challenge!

Yass on the other side of the ACT was very different. It is further away (61k) and therefore less influenced by Canberra. It was also much much wealthier, the heart of a traditional grazing area. However, now Canberra's growth has spread to Yass.

Between 2001 and 2006, the population of the Yass Valley Council area grew from 12,103 to 13,747 for an annual average increase of 2.6%, direclty reflecting Canberra's growth.

Palerang lies to the east and south of Queanbeyan/Canberra and covers Braidwood, Bungendore and Captains Flat and the outlying villages of Araluen, Majors Creek, Mongarlowe and Nerriga. It also includes the areas of Wamboin, Burra, Bywong, Hoskinstown, and parts of Sutton, Royalla and Carwoola.

Again, its population growth directly reflects the growth of Canberra.

But why does all this make Canberra an elephant in the NSW room?

Quite simply, the city's growth not only affects the surrounding region in population and economic terms, but also in governance terms. Canberra's influence means that the broader capital region as it has become known incorporates increasing slabs of NSW and therefore has to be managed by the NSW and ACT Governments through collaborative arrangements.

Canberra is not the only elephant. We can see this same fragmentation process in the south and north of the state, where the growing influence of Victoria and Queensland creates similar issues.

The Tweed Shire Council, the ninth fastest growing local government area, covers 1,300 square kilometres in the far north east of NSW (and New England) next to the Queensland border, 828k (1o hours 41 minutes driving time) from Sydney. Between 2001 and 2006, Tweed's population grew from 74,577 to 82,955 for an annual average increase of 2.2%.

Tweed Heads lies next door to Queensland's fast growing Gold Coast, one of Australia's best known tourist destinations. Between 1986 and 2005, the Gold Coast grew by 267,000 people, and is expected to grow again by the same ammount in the next twent years.

Tweed's natural beauty (the popular New England tourist destination of Byron Bay - 30,635 people - also lies next door), the climate and the proximity to the Gold Coast have all combined to trigger growth that has transformed Tweed Heads into a major urban centre in a few short decades.

The growth of Tweed Heads and the immediately surrounding region has had quite profound on-ground effects.

The nearby city of Lismore (44,225) on the Richmond River, once New England's second largest city after Newcastle, has struggled to maintain its position in the face of the overwhelming retail power of the Gold Coast.

As with Canberra and the surrounding region, this northern area cannot be governed in isolation from a Queensland to which it increasingly belongs in economic terms. I will look more broadly at some of these governance issues in a later post.

The remaining fast growth areas - Auburn, Strathfield, Baulkham Hills, Camden and Canada Bay - all form part of greater Sydney. I will look at these areas in a different post because they raise different issues.

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