Cities could crumble under population boom as interstate migrants flood Sunshine State
One regional town is tipped to double its population, growing at a rate of more than 126 per cent, as Queensland’s migrant boom puts pressure on infrastructure.
Queensland’s booming population is predicted to surpass seven million by 2046 – but experts warn Brisbane and the Gold Coast would soon become dysfunctional if housing supply and public transport issues were not urgently addressed.
New population projection data shows Queensland’s population will blow out by two million over the next 20 years, mainly in the southeast, with the Gold Coast nearing one million residents and Ipswich’s population more than doubling.
Regional areas are predicted to grow at phenomenal speeds as interstate migrants from NSW and Victoria seek out affordable living, particularly in Moreton Bay and the Sunshine Coast.
Social researcher and demographer Mark McCrindle said the SEQ population boom would
become a significant national interest over the next decade and the federal government would eventually have to step in to help Queensland catch up on critical infrastructure demand.
“Queensland population growth has exceeded 100,000 over the last 12 months alone,” he said.
“Regional cities can absorb people, but they need infrastructure – that’s more than roads and transport; like offices, business growth, telecommunications, energy.
“And we can’t have money just coming from state coffers; it has to be national growth because the state is taking so much growth from other states.”
To successfully redistribute the population, experts say housing supply and public transport will need to be addressed “rapidly” to allow freight movement and job access.
RACQ head of public policy Dr Michael Kane said Brisbane’s current transport options were so poor that the city was “on the path to dysfunction” and would sooner come to a grinding halt with residents unable to travel efficiently.
Projected Queensland population growth
He said governments needed to fundamental rethink long-term transport strategies such as building an underground rail system, rather than continue pushing short-term projects.
“The Gateway, Pacific motorway and Bruce Highway – that’s the major spine of the Queensland economy and there’s a chokepoint on it,” he said.
“We’re running out of land for the cities and we have increasingly higher density, so we need to work on that higher-density transport planning which we (currently) do very poorly.
“For big cityscapes, we need to think about underground rail and more bus corridors, like what Perth is doing, and then we need to work out how to grow the regional cities to take the pressure off capital cities.”
Both the Queensland Property Council and the Real Estate Institute of Queensland said the state desperately needed to diversify its housing supply, and unlock greenfield and infill land so that houses were put on the ground sooner.
REIQ chief operating officer Dean Milton said Ipswich, which is expected to grow at a rate of more than 126 per cent, would face the largest housing challenge and southeast councils should start having conversations about expanding onto farmland.
“Areas like the Sunshine Coast, Gympie, Lockyer Valley, Toowoomba, they’ll have to start being developed now if people want space,” Mr Milton said.
“We’ll have to talk to farming areas out west and find the balance between food and housing.”