Monday, 25 November, 2019
Greater Sydney lost nearly 100,000 residents in 2017-18, with 12,000 coming to Newcastle and the Hunter. Trends and scenarios for population movement and growth were the focus of the HRF Centre’s Hunter Economic breakfast in Newcastle on 15 November.
Dr Anthea Bill, HRF Centre’s lead economist, shared her analysis for a report on ‘gateway cities’ – Newcastle, Geelong, and Wollongong – which was launched on Monday, 25 November, in Canberra. The report represents a collaboration among the three cities and their respective universities.
The initiative is timely, with increased attention to regional population and government investment being called for by several national bodies. The Regional Australia Institute, for example, sent its co-CEO to present at the economic breakfast on regional population scenarios. Infrastructure Australia refers to, in its recent infrastructure audit, ‘satellite cities’. The Business Council of Australia’s Jennifer Westacott in an address this week at the Press Club in Sydney called for attention to Australia’s ten largest ‘regional towns’.
These national bodies acknowledge that, for Australia, immigration and population growth have enabled consistent economic growth, a point underlined by Dr Bill in her breakfast presentation. Treasury have highlighted the economic and fiscal benefits migrants have brought to Australia, undoubtedly playing a part in the country's now 28 years of positive GDP growth.
There were 97,000 out-migrants from Greater Sydney in 2017-18, as noted above. Nearly 7,000 came to Newcastle and Lake Macquarie, the biggest share of regional NSW. A further 5,000 went to the rest of the Hunter.
“The number of people moving to the Hunter from Greater Sydney jumped last year,” Dr Bill stated. “There were 2,500 more people moving to the Hunter from Greater Sydney in 2017-18 than in 2016-17.”
Greater Geelong and other Victorian regions have benefited from out-migration from metropolitan Melbourne. Of the 76,600 out-migrants from Greater Melbourne, half went to regional Victoria. Eleven per cent, or 8,500, landed in Geelong, which is now one of Australia’s fastest growing cities.
Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) show a 2.7 per cent rise in population in Geelong from 2017 to 2018, mostly from internal migration. Greater Melbourne grew less, 2.5 per cent, and it is considered one of the fastest growing cities in the developed world.
“A number of government agencies have re-located to Geelong in recent years,” Dr Bill noted. “It has also developed transport infrastructure to improve its links to Melbourne and further. It has an active Committee for Geelong and secured a City Deal from the federal government in March of this year. That virtuous cycle of investment and advocacy seems to be paying off for Geelong.”
Dr Bill questioned whether there was potential to use mechanisms, such as a faster rail connection to Sydney, to accelerate growth in the Hunter region’s population and economy.
“Further policy interventions may build the region’s capacity to attract people,” she said. “Public investment in the development of infrastructure can enhance the attraction of the Hunter region and draw population from the capitals.”
Greater Newcastle has an opportunity to trade on its position to attract population, she said. It has advantages of a capital city, including its size, population density, high-performing industry clusters, anchor institutions and lifestyle. It lacks some of the negative impacts of congestion, housing unaffordability and crowded infrastructure.