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4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 2000  
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Contents >> Population >> Population Distribution: Regional populations: growth and decline

Population Distribution: Regional populations: growth and decline

Australia's estimated resident population increased on average by 1.2% per year in the five-year period ending June 1999. Overall, capital cities grew more rapidly than other areas.


Estimated Resident Population
Population figures in this review refer to the estimated resident population (ERP) of an area at June 1994 and June 1999. The ERP is the estimate of the number of persons who usually reside in that area irrespective of where they were on the date of the estimate. The estimates are adjusted for Census underenumeration and Australian residents temporarily absent overseas. Estimates at June of the census year and the post-censal estimates are updates of census date estimates based on components of natural increase and net overseas and net interstate migration.

ERPs for areas smaller than States and Territories are derived by the same procedures but they also take into account the change in some indicators (e.g. dwelling approvals), which have an impact on population change for the area. For more information refer to ABS Information Paper: Demographic Estimates: Concepts, Sources and Methods (cat. no. 3228.0). This paper is available on the ABS website.

Areas Defined
This review uses spatial units contained within the Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC) such as Statistical Local Areas (SLAs). Areas referred to in this review are defined as at June 1999. For more information refer to Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC) 1999 (cat. no. 1216.0).

Capital city refers to the Statistical Division (SD) surrounding a State or Territory capital.1


Identifying the location of areas experiencing high population growth or decline can reveal some of the forces shaping contemporary patterns of human settlement. Areas experiencing high levels of growth are of special interest, because these areas can provide opportunities for business investment, which, in turn, can stimulate further growth. For planners, such areas present challenges in terms of providing basic infrastructure (such as roads, power, water and sewerage), community services (such as hospitals, schools, aged care centres) and for managing the impact of the growth on the local environment. Identifying areas in decline is also of interest because of the impact this decline can have on people’s lives. For example, people may lose contact with friends and family, lose access to services or lose their livelihood.

Capital cities
At June 1999, Australia’s estimated population was 18,966,800, of whom most (64%) lived in the capital cities. Since June 1994 Australia’s population had increased by an average of 1.2% per year. During this period, capital cities experienced 70% of the total growth and grew by an average of 1.3% each year. The rest of Australia grew by an average of 1.0% each year.

GROWTH IN CAPITAL CITIES AND BALANCE OF STATE OR TERRITORY, 1994-99

Capital city
Balance of State or Territory


Population change
Average annual growth rate
Population change
Average annual growth rate
State or Territory
'000
%
'000
%

SydneyNSW
271.7
1.4
79.8
0.7
MelbourneVic.
204.2
1.2
20.4
0.3
BrisbaneQld
146.2
1.9
179.0
2.0
AdelaideSA
21.2
0.4
5.8
0.3
PerthWA
117.9
1.8
40.1
1.7
HobartTas.
-0.4
0.0
-2.3
-0.2
DarwinNT
9.1
2.2
10.4
2.1
CanberraACT
8.7
0.6
0.0
-1.4
TotalAustralia
778.7
1.3
333.1
1.0

Source: Regional Population Growth, Australia, 1998-99 (Cat no. 3218.0).


Darwin, the fastest growing capital city during the five-year period, grew by 2.2% annually while Brisbane, the second fastest growing, grew by 1.9% annually. Queensland was the only place where the balance of the State or Territory experienced a larger increase in population and grew more quickly than the capital city. During the 1994-99 period, over 60% of Queensland's non-capital city growth occurred in Moreton Statistical Division (SD). This SD comprises coastal areas of the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast and areas surrounding Brisbane.2

Sydney and Melbourne had the largest increases in population: Sydney's population increased by 271,700, and Melbourne's by 204,200. Tasmania's population declined by 2,700 people, and its capital city, Hobart, by 400 people. Tasmania was the only State or Territory, and Hobart the only capital city, where population fell during this period.

Within cities, growth can occur in particular areas for a variety of reasons. Nevertheless, there are two main patterns which can be identified: suburban growth and urban in-fill.


Components of population growth
Population growth or decline, within an area, is the result of natural increase (the difference between the number of births and the number of deaths) and net migration (the difference between the number of persons moving in and out of an area). Rapid and/or large changes in the size and structure of regional populations typically reflect high levels of net migration.


HIGH-GROWTH SLAs(a) IN CAPITAL CITIES, 1994-99

Estimated resident population

June 1994
June 1999
Population change
Average annual growth rate
State or Territory
'000
'000
'000
%

Fastest growing SLAs(b)
Ngunnawal
ACT
1.1
6.6
5.5
42.5
Doolandella-Forest Lake
Qld
3.3
11.8
8.4
28.7
Parkinson-Drewvale
Qld
1.3
4.5
3.2
28.5
Melbourne (C) - Inner
Vic.
1.5
4.7
3.3
26.5
Melton (S) - East
Vic.
3.2
9.6
6.4
24.5
Sydney (C) - Remainder
NSW
6.7
17.4
10.6
20.8
Taigum-Fitzgibbon
Qld
2.7
6.0
3.3
17.2
Kuraby
Qld
1.4
3.0
1.6
16.6
Calamvale
Qld
4.3
8.6
4.3
14.9
Bridgeman Downs
Qld
2.5
5.1
2.5
14.9
Sydney (C) - Inner
NSW
2.8
5.4
2.6
14.1
Conder
ACT
2.4
4.3
1.9
12.5
Largest growing SLAs
Liverpool (C)
NSW
112.8
143.3
30.5
4.9
Blacktown (C)
NSW
230.7
254.8
24.2
2.0
Casey (C) - Berwick
Vic.
37.7
58.1
20.4
9.1
Wyong (A)
NSW
113.9
129.3
15.4
2.6
Rockingham (C)
WA
54.7
69.0
14.3
4.7
Swan (S)
WA
65.9
80.1
14.2
4.0
Gosford (C)
NSW
144.5
158.2
13.7
1.8
Sutherland Shire (A)
NSW
199.2
211.8
12.6
1.2
Brimbank (C) - Keilor
Vic.
71.7
83.9
12.2
3.2
South Sydney (C)
NSW
74.0
85.9
11.9
3.0
Camden (A)
NSW
28.7
40.2
11.5
7.0
Hornsby (A)
NSW
137.8
149.3
11.4
1.6
Penrith (C)
NSW
162.4
173.4
11.0
1.3
Joondalup (C) - North
WA
34.3
45.0
10.8
5.6
Sydney (C) - Remainder
NSW
6.7
17.4
10.6
20.8
Cockburn (C)
WA
55.8
66.0
10.2
3.4

(a) Statistical Local Areas. See Australian Standard Geographical Classification 1999(cat. no. 1216.0). The suffixes given in the SLA names describe whether the SLAs are also known as Areas (A), Cities (C), Municipalities (M) or Shires (S).
(b) Excludes SLAs with an ERP of less than 1,000 people at June 1994.

Source: Regional Population Growth, Australia, 1998-99 (cat. no. 3218.0).

High growth in outer suburbs of capital cities
Supported by a combination of factors such as high levels of demand for low density housing among young families, high levels of car ownership and favourable land use regulations, suburban development on the outer fringes of Australia's capital cities has been a dominant feature of the pattern of human settlement in Australia for much of the second half of the 20th century.

Typically, new suburbs form on the fringes of the city. Starting from a low population base, they grow rapidly until they become more firmly established, after which they attract even more residents. This second stage is typified by slower growth, but can involve large absolute numbers. The cycle then starts afresh, with development on the new fringe.

Between 1994 and 1999, areas experiencing the fastest growth were mostly located in fringe areas. Examples include newly established suburbs such as the SLAs of Ngunnawal in Canberra (with an average annual growth rate of 43%) and both Doolandella-Forest Lake and Parkinson-Drewvale in the south west of Brisbane (with average annual growth rates of 29%). The areas with the largest absolute increases were in the longer established outer suburbs. These included a number in Sydney. Liverpool (C) and Blacktown (C), both with large established populations, gained the most: 30,500 and 24,200 people respectively. In Melbourne, the developing area of Casey (C) - Berwick gained 20,400 people.

Inner-city areas of Sydney and Melbourne also growing
Greater emphasis on urban consolidation is seeing revived growth in established inner-city areas of Sydney and Melbourne. This pattern of settlement is popular amongst young financially advantaged adults who work in the central business district (see Australian Social Trends 1999, Inner city residential development). High density housing predominates in these SLAs due to the shortage of land available for residential purposes.3

Areas of population growth outside capital cities
The top five fast growing SLAs outside of the capital cities, in the five-year period ending June 1999, were all on Queensland's Gold Coast. These were Stephens, Parkwood, Hope Island, Oxenford and Guanaba-Currumbin Valley. Each had an annual average growth rate in excess of 10% but they also all started with relatively small populations in 1994.

Associated with this growth, Moreton Statistical Division (SD), which includes the above five SLAs, grew by 3.6% annually. It recorded the second fastest growth rate of all SDs in Australia. Kimberley SD in Western Australia, with a much smaller population base than Moreton, grew by 4.0% and was the fastest growing SD.

The non-capital city SLAs, which grew by more than 5,000 people each in the five years prior to June 1999, were all coastal SLAs. All but two of these SLAs were either in Queensland or New South Wales. In fact, 64 of the 100 non-capital city SLAs which experienced the most absolute growth during this period, were coastal SLAs in Queensland and New South Wales. A number of coastal areas of south-west Western Australia also experienced large increases. Some of the movement to these areas has been associated with economic growth (particularly tourism-related economic growth), but a sizeable proportion of this migration has been a 'lifestyle' movement of those seeking cheaper costs and a better climate.4,5 Individuals and families on low incomes are attracted to these coastal regions as well as retirees.6 According to 1996 Census data, 11 of the 15 non-capital city SLAs which grew by more than 5,000 people during the 1994-99 period, contained proportions of persons aged 65 years or more which were higher than the Australian average.3

Growth, of a lesser extent, has also occurred in some inland regional centres. Some of this growth is due to people from surrounding regions migrating to these centres. This growth can occur because of agricultural restructuring and mechanisation (resulting in larger and fewer farms and lower demand for farm workers), and improvements in transport and communications (allowing industries and services in the regional centre to service a wide area).7 The decline in employment and services in the outlying areas encourages migration to these inland regional centres. Mildura (RC) - Part A in Victoria and Dubbo (C) in New South Wales are examples of these. These two centres grew by 3,100 people and 1,900 people respectively, during the 1994-99 period, whilst most SLAs surrounding these two centres experienced population decline.

HIGH-GROWTH SLAs(a) WHICH ARE OUTSIDE CAPITAL CITIES, 1994-99

Estimated resident population

June 1994
June 1999
Population change
Average annual growth rate
State or Territory
'000
'000
'000
%

Fastest growing SLAs(b)
Stephens
Qld
2.4
5.2
2.8
16.3
Parkwood
Qld
4.9
8.9
3.9
12.5
Hope Island
Qld
1.9
3.3
1.4
12.0
Oxenford
Qld
4.7
7.9
3.2
11.1
Guanaba-Currumbin Valley
Qld
12.4
20.5
8.0
10.5
Largest growing SLAs
Lake Macquarie (C)
NSW
173.6
183.0
9.4
1.1
Mandurah (C)
WA
35.7
44.0
8.3
4.3
Cairns (C) - Trinity
Qld
20.8
29.1
8.3
6.9
Maroochy (S) - Buderim
Qld
21.0
29.0
8.1
6.7
Guanaba-Currumbin Valley
Qld
12.4
20.5
8.0
10.5
Hastings (A)
NSW
54.2
61.3
7.1
2.5
Tweed (A) - Pt A
NSW
35.8
42.8
7.0
3.6
Hervey Bay (C)
Qld
35.2
42.2
7.0
3.7
Mackay (C) - Pt A
Qld
58.0
64.9
6.9
2.3
Port Stephens (A)
NSW
49.4
56.0
6.5
2.5
Shoalhaven (C)
NSW
76.2
82.5
6.3
1.6
Wollongong (C)
NSW
181.0
186.6
5.6
0.6
Busselton (S)
WA
16.0
21.6
5.5
6.1
Shellharbour (C)
NSW
51.7
56.9
5.2
1.9
Coffs Harbour (C)
NSW
54.7
59.7
5.1
1.8

(a) Statistical Local Areas. See Australian Standard Geographical Classification 1999 (cat. no. 1216.0). See note concerning suffixes in table on page 12.
(b) Excludes SLAs with an ERP of less than 1,000 people at June 1994.

Source: Regional Population Growth, Australia, 1998-99 (cat. no. 3218.0).


Measuring population growth
Two measures have been used to identify areas experiencing high levels of population growth (or decline) between 1994 and 1999. These are: population change (which measures the change in the actual number of people in the area), and average annual growth rate (which measures the average yearly growth of the population relative to its size at the beginning of the period).

Both measures have been used because either measure by itself can give a misleading impression of the significance of change within an area. For instance, a high growth rate may not be significant if the numbers of people involved are small. It is for this reason that SLAs with high growth rates, but with an ERP of less than 1,000 people at June 1994, have been excluded from the lists of high-growth SLAs presented in the tables.


Areas of population decline
Changes in the fortunes of particular industries can play a major role in determining whether the population of a region grows or declines, especially if the industries concerned are a large part of the economic base on which the population depends. Particularly vulnerable are areas heavily dependent on mining. Mines themselves have a fixed life, but changes in commodity prices can also quickly affect the viability of a mine.8 Between 1994 and 1999, mining SLAs such as Broken Hill (C) and Mount Isa (C) experienced large absolute population decline. East Pilbara (S) in Western Australia, and West Coast (M) in Tasmania, experienced both large and rapid population decline. Mount Magnet (S) and Laverton (S), less populated mining areas in Western Australia, also experienced fast declines over this period.

Major population declines in other regions can also be linked to changing levels of activity in particular industries. Population declines in La Trobe (S) - Morwell and La Trobe (S) - Moe (two adjacent SLAs in Victoria’s La Trobe Valley) are associated with the progressive restructuring of the coal-based electricity production industry in these areas since the mid 1980s.9 Population decline in Playford (C) - Elizabeth, and Whyalla (C) (both in South Australia) has occurred because of large declines in manufacturing employment. The number of manufacturing workers living in both of these SLAs declined by 23% between 1991 and 1996. In comparison, manufacturing employment, at the national level, increased by 7%.10

HIGH POPULATION DECLINE SLAs(a), 1994-99

Estimated resident population

June 1994
June 1999
Population change
Average annual growth rate
State or Territory
'000
'000
'000
%

Fastest declining SLAs(b)
Mount Magnet (S)
WA
1.1
0.7
-0.4
-7.8
Unincorp. Flinders Ranges
SA
2.0
1.6
-0.5
-5.1
West Coast (M)
Tas.
6.9
5.7
-1.2
-3.6
Laverton (S)
WA
1.4
1.2
-0.2
-3.6
East Pilbara (S)
WA
8.1
6.8
-1.2
-3.2
Largest declining SLAs
Broken Hill (C)
NSW
23.1
21.0
-2.1
-1.9
Playford (C) - Elizabeth
SA
27.6
25.8
-1.8
-1.3
La Trobe (S) - Morwell
Vic.
24.8
23.1
-1.8
-1.5
Whyalla (C)
SA
25.1
23.7
-1.4
-1.1
Launceston (C) - Pt B
Tas.
61.1
59.7
-1.4
-0.5
Mount Isa (C)
Qld
23.2
21.9
-1.3
-1.1
Frankston (C) - West
Vic.
78.9
77.7
-1.3
-0.3
East Pilbara (S)
WA
8.1
6.8
-1.2
-3.2
Monash (C) - Waverley East
Vic.
61.9
60.7
-1.2
-0.4
West Coast (M)
Tas.
6.9
5.7
-1.2
-3.6
Tea Tree Gully (C) - Central
SA
28.3
27.2
-1.2
-0.8
Moree Plains (A)
NSW
16.2
15.1
-1.1
-1.4
Hobart (C) - Remainder
Tas.
46.8
45.8
-1.0
-0.5
La Trobe (S) - Moe
Vic.
19.6
18.6
-1.0
-1.1

(a) Statistical Local Areas. See Australian Standard Geographical Classification 1999 (cat. no. 1216.0). See note concerning suffixes in table on page 12.
(b) Excludes SLAs with an ERP of less than 1,000 people at June 1994.

Source: Regional Population Growth, Australia, 1998-99 (cat. no. 3218.0).


Endnotes
1 Statistical Divisions (SDs) are large regional geographic units. Capital city SDs contain the anticipated development of the city for a period of at least 20 years. SDs outside capital cities represent relatively homogenous regions, characterised by identifiable social and economic links between the inhabitants and between the economic units within the region, under the unifying influence of one or more major towns or cities (see Australian Standard Geographical Classification 1999, cat. no. 1216.0).

2 Australian Bureau of Statistics 2000, Regional Population Growth, Australia, 1998-99, cat. no. 3218.0, ABS, Canberra.

3 Australian Bureau of Statistics 1998, Australia in Profile: A Regional Analysis, cat. no. 2032.0, ABS, Canberra.

4 Maher, C. and Stimson, R. 1994, Regional Population Growth in Australia: Nature, Impacts and Implications, AGPS, Canberra.

5 Flood, J., Maher, C., Newton, P. and Roy, J. 1991, The determinants of internal migration in Australia: Report prepared for the Indicative Planning Council for the Housing Industry and the Department of Industry, Technology and Commerce, CSIRO, Division of Building, Construction and Engineering, Melbourne.

6 Fincher, R. and Nieuwenhuysen, J. (eds) 1998, Australian Poverty: Then and Now, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne.

7 Bureau of Immigration, Multicultural and Population Research 1996, Australia's Population Trends and Prospects 1995, AGPS, Canberra.

8 McKenzie, F. 1994, Regional Population Decline in Australia: Impacts and Policy Implications, AGPS, Canberra.

9 Department of Infrastructure (Victoria) 1999, Towns in time: Analysis, Department of Infrastructure, Melbourne.

10 Australian Bureau of Statistics, unpublished data, Census of Population and Housing, 1991 and 1996.


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