City News, 20 April 2023
POPULATION projections have been indispensable in informing the planning and provision of social infrastructure (schools, shops, aged care, public transport etcetera) and physical infrastructure (roads, water, sewer, stormwater, power) and services. The 2022 Projections, without analysis, assume the higher projected population can simply be accommodated by increasing densities in inner areas and higher densities in the major centres (eg, the population of Molonglo is said to increase to 86,000 in 2060 – is it desirable, feasible, at what cost?).
All the district and suburb estimates of population suffer from the inadequacies of the 2018 Planning Strategy which assumed 70 per cent infill best achieved compact city objectives. The strategy did not evaluate the merits of higher greenfield share scenarios where such areas are well connected and have substantial employment, services and facilities.
Clearly there is a need to review the strategy to comprehensively consider housing preferences, infrastructure requirements, transport, environmental impacts and housing affordability. Such a review will need an increase in the strategic planning capability within the bureaucracy including the appointment of a demographer.
There has not been an in-house demographer since 2015. Such capacity may increase the community’s confidence in the competency of the government in exploring alternative urban futures and avoid the muddle of the 2018 Planning Strategy, District Plans and 2022 Projections.
Mike Quirk is a retired NCDC and ACT government planner.