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1216.0.55.002 - Information Paper: Outcome from The Review of the Australian Standard Geographical Classification, 2008  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 25/07/2008  First Issue
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SUBMISSIONS RECEIVED AND THE ABS RESPONSE


THE SUBMISSIONS

There were 29 formal submissions received as a response to the information paper The Review of the Australian Standard Geographical Classification (cat. no. 1216.0.55.001). There were also a number of informal responses.


The majority of submissions were supportive of the proposal because it was more responsive to user needs, provided stable and consistent units and has greater geographical resolution than the current ASGC. However, most submissions expressed concerns about some aspect of the proposal. The main concerns raised were:

      1. The impact on time series analysis
      2. The impact on Local Government Area (LGA) data
      3. The impact on the Northern Territory (NT) and Australian Capital Territory (ACT)
      4. The number of Statistical Area Level 2s (SA2s)
      5. Mesh block design around Urban Centres
      6. The impact of releasing Labour Force data on the Statistical Area Level 4s (SA4s)
      7. The lack of a Statistical Community Structure
      8. The conceptual basis of the proposal
      9. The difference between the Endorsed and Supported Structures

A tenth concern relating to the understanding of the term Major Urban Concentrations was raised within the ABS.


In light of these concerns the ABS has decided to accept the proposed ASGS as outlined in the information paper (cat. no. 1216.0.55.001), with the following changes:

      1. Special consideration will be paid to the suburb based characteristics of the NT and ACT in the implementation of the ASGS
      2. The Endorsed and Supported structures will be combined and referred to as Non-ABS structures
      3. The SA4 level will be aligned to the requirements of Labour Force data.
      4. The ABS will engage with stakeholders to determine the feasibility of a 'Statistical Community' as a Non-ABS structure
      5. The term Major Urban Concentrations will be replaced with the term Significant Urban Area (SUA)

The ten concerns and the five changes to the proposed ASGS as outlined above are discussed in more detail later in this chapter.



Structure of the ASGS

The diagram below summarises the final structure of the ASGS.

Diagram: the final structure of the ASGS



Summary of concerns

1 Summary of Concerns

Concern
Commonwealth
State and Territory
Local Government
Other
Total

Time Series
4
8
2
0
14
Local Government Areas
1
7
1
0
9
NT and ACT
0
3
0
0
3
Number of SA2s
1
1
0
0
2
Mesh block design
1
3
0
0
4
Labour Force
1
0
0
0
1
Statistical Community Structure
0
1
1
3
5
Conceptual Basis
1
0
2
0
3
Endorsed and Supported
1
0
0
0
1
Major Urban Concentrations
1
0
0
0
1


In interpreting Table 1 it should be recognised that:
  • the concerns identified are broad categories which are not mutually exclusive
  • the table gives no indication of the relative significance of stakeholders or the importance of a particular concern to them
  • several submissions were combined responses from several stakeholders.

In analysing Table 1, it is apparent that the impact of the proposal on time series is a major concern raised by a number of stakeholders across all levels of government. The impact on LGA statistics is another serious concern, particularly at a state level. There is also stakeholder support for a statistical community structure in the ASGS.


See the Appendix for a list of organisations that provided submissions.



Impact on time series

Concern

The potential impact of implementing the ASGS on time series was raised as a key concern by half of the submissions.


Response

The ABS acknowledges that the impact of the ASGS on time series analysis is critical and in response the ABS has or will:

  • prepare population based correspondences between the ASGC and the ASGS for 2011 and 2016
  • align mesh blocks to 2006 and 2011 statistical local area (SLA) and LGAs
  • facilitate the release of 2011 Census of Population and Housing data on the ASGC (SLA) and ASGS
  • consider the release of some 2006 Census of Population and Housing data on the 2011 ASGS
  • recast 2001 - 2010 estimated residential population (ERP) data on SA2s
  • reflect 2006 statistical division (SD) boundaries in the design of SA2s
  • LGA boundaries in major cities will be a consideration in the design of SA2s

The ABS will provide other correspondences to facilitate the recasting of time series onto the ASGS.



Impact on Local Government Area Statistics

Concern

Many stakeholders are concerned that the ABS would not continue to provide the current level of statistics for LGAs or would not be able to produce accurate LGA level statistics, particularly ERP.


Response

While the ASGS removes LGA boundaries from the main structure, LGAs will remain part of the ASGS as a Non-ABS structure.


To facilitate the correspondence of data between LGAs and SA2s:

  • mesh blocks will be aligned to 2006 and 2011 LGAs
  • LGA boundaries in major cities will be a consideration in the design of SA2s
  • SD boundaries (which generally consist of groups of LGAs) will be considered in the design of SA2s in regional areas

The SA2s of the main structure will be designed in close consultation with ABS Demography section to provide a stable framework for ERP modelling. For LGAs, ABS Demography expects the SA2 modelled ERP to be as good, if not better, than their current SLA based modelling.



The impact on the NT and ACT

Concern

The NT and ACT government submissions requested the retention of the current suburb based SLA structure in the new SA2 design. Their concern was that the strict application of the proposed guidelines would result in the NT and the ACT having significantly fewer SA2s than current SLAs. The submissions argued for special consideration because Darwin and Canberra suburbs:

  • have a long history as a statistical unit
  • were recognised by both the government and community
  • clearly identify areas of growth
  • clearly identify purely commercial areas (e.g. Mitchell and Fyshwick in the ACT)

In the NT there is also a concern that its small population and sparse settlement outside Darwin would result in very separate areas across large distances being combined.


Response

In response the ABS will give special consideration to the circumstances of the NT and ACT and will consult with the Territory governments in the final design of the ASGS boundaries. Other cities with suburb based SLAs, such as Brisbane and Townsville, will retain suburbs as part of the SA2 design.



The Number of SA2s

Concern

A concern was expressed by some State Governments that the increased number of SA2s compared with SLAs would increase the resource burden on state planning departments to forecast population change.


Response

SA2s provide a more consistent unit for statistical analysis, addressing two of the main concerns about the current SLA design: the issues of consistent size and stability. There will be a greater number of SA2s than SLAs in the new structure and planning departments have the option of combining data provided by SA2s if they consider them too small. This concern is the counter argument of the NT and ACT Government's position of too few SA2s.


The SA2 level will be designed as the framework for the ABS to release ERP, in close consultation with the ABS Demography section and the state planning departments. Consideration will given to the finest level of geographical resolution for ABS statistics as possible without compromising statistical quality.



Mesh Block Design surrounding Urban Centres and Localities

Concern

A number of stakeholders formally or informally expressed their concern that mesh blocks do not allow the identification of many Urban Centre/Localities (UC/L) in a comparable way with the ASGC Section of State (SOS) and UC/L structures.


Response

The ABS will ensure that UC/Ls can be defined in a way that meets the needs of users. The original design criteria for mesh blocks placed a high priority on population distribution and size. The ABS has since reconsidered this criteria relaxing the constraint of population size on mesh blocks thus allowing greater flexibility in mesh block design. A review of definition of urban/rural will be undertaken in the second half of 2008 and will include stakeholder consultation.



The impact of releasing labour force data on SA4s

Concern

Concern was expressed that the number of SA4s would be less than the current number of Labour Force Regions, thereby reducing geographical resolution.


Response

The SA4 level is intended as an output unit for the release of sample survey statistics, especially labour force. In practice labour force statistics are likely to be the only sample survey statistics released at the SA4 level. The ABS has concluded that it would be appropriate to design the SA4 level more closely to the requirements of labour force statistics. If the SA4 level cannot be reconciled to these needs, a separate ABS structure will be developed in consultation with relevant stakeholders.



Statistical Community Structure

Concern

Five submissions raised the concern that the ASGS did not contain a structure representing communities as defined by their social characteristics.


Response

In the information paper (cat. no. 1216.0.55.001) the ABS originally rejected this idea of a statistical community. The ABS has decided, however, to engage with stakeholders to determine the feasibility of a 'Statistical Community' as a Non-ABS structure.



Conceptual Basis

Concern

Two main concerns were raised relating to the conceptual basis of the proposal. Firstly, the ABS’ ability to identify functional zones. Secondly, the population range of units at each level of the ASGS Main structure.


Response

It would be possible to identify a hierarchy of service centres and their functional zones rigorously. However, this approach would not generate a straightforward hierarchy of areas as functional zones overlap and interact in complex ways. The result would be too complex for the needs of the majority of the ABS’s statistical users. The ABS therefore does not intend to apply the concept to all levels of the structure and, where it is applied, it will be modified by other considerations. For further information regarding these considerations please refer to the first information paper (cat. no. 1216.0.55.001).


The ABS will analyse 2006 Census Travel to Work data to identify relatively self contained local labour markets. The ABS will also build on work done by the National Centre for Social Applications of GIS, University of Adelaide (GISCA) to identify service centres and their functional zones. These will be considered in SA2 and SA3 design. Other considerations will be the transport network, urban development, topography, administrative boundaries and consultation with stakeholders. Stakeholders will be given an opportunity to comment on the boundaries and labels before they are finalised.


The variability of the population size of the main structure units was raised informally. While the units of the main structure are much less variable than the current ASGC main structure there is still a considerable population range. Apart from a number of zero (or very low) population SA2s, most will fall within the population range of 3,000 to 25,000 people. This represents an eightfold difference between the smallest and largest units.


Maintaining, supplying and analysing data on any unit is a burden to the ABS and many of its stakeholders. The ABS must also consider the relative statistical value of any potential geographical unit. It would be possible to reduce the variation in the population range by simply splitting the larger SA2 units. This would potentially create a large number of geographically meaningless units, particularly in the major cities. Large population SA2s are more appropriate in the suburbs of the larger cities, where settlement is dense and relatively uniform. Small SA2s are more appropriate to remote and outer regional areas where the settlement is sparse and diverse.



Endorsed and Supported Geographies

Concern

The distinction between the Endorsed and Supported structures of the ASGS caused some confusion to stakeholders.


Response

The distinction between the Endorsed and Supported structures has no practical effect on how a set of boundaries will be treated in the ASGS. They will therefore be combined under the term Non-ABS Structures.



The term Major Urban Concentrations

Concern

The term "Major Urban Concentrations" has the potential to mislead users.


Response

The ABS considers Significant Urban Areas (SUA) a better description of what the classification represents, i.e. urban areas or closely linked clusters of urban areas with an urban population in excess of 10,000. The SUA structure is intended to replace the current Statistical District Structure and will cross state borders where appropriate. The structure will be built from whole SA2s.


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