1304.5 - Stats Talk WA, Mar 2010  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 30/03/2010   
   Page tools: Print Print Page Print all pages in this productPrint All

Perth's Middle Age Spread

Ever tried to fit into a shirt less than half your size?

That’s what the Perth metro area might be facing in the next 40 years as the population is projected to rise from around 1.7 million currently to nearly 3.8 million in 2050, Population Projections, Australia, 2006 to 2101 (cat. no. 3222.0).

Where will all these extra people fit? Will Perthites have to change the way we live? Will the Dockers have won an AFL flag by then? These are the really big questions.

As George Stone, WA’s Registrar-General said in his preamble to the results of the 1848 Census, “It is by statistical inquiries alone that the relative well-being of our community can be determined.” One hundred and sixty two years later his words still ring true.

So, using the 2006 Census results for Perth, and extrapolating out, let’s look at what WA’s capital city might be like in 2050.

The current land area of the Perth Statistical Division (the metro area as most would call it) is 5,423 square kilometres, about 319 persons per square kilometre. If we get to 3.8 million in that same space by 2050 that’ll be about 710 per square kilometre and lots of people having to say “Excuse me’, as they constantly squeeze past.

Can Perth’s footprint continue to grow, and if so, what will that mean? Already people residing in the far northern suburbs are taunted by inner city, latte sipping trendoids as living in “South Geraldton”. Might this actually come true?

Now statisticians are very good at counting things that have
happened, but are somewhat reluctant to forecast what might happen. So the assumption here is that despite changes in the population, we’ll still live in the same sort of housing, use the same modes of transport, consume energy at the same rate and that the aged population matches the current ratio.

High rise apartments

Crowded House
We all have to live somewhere and currently (2006 Census) 79% of us live in separate houses, 12% in townhouses and 9% in flats; a total of 528,533 dwellings. If we expand the area of Perth to live in the same dwelling types, with the same proportion of open space, then the city would have to grow to almost 12,000 sq km.

This means the metro area would have to extend from Lancelin in the north to the Lakes turnoff in the East and beyond Mandurah in the south. That’s not quite South Geraldton or North Bunbury, but it’s getting close.

According to the City Mayors Statistics website (www.citymayors.com), the world city with the largest land area is the New York Metro area at 8,683 sq km, holding 17.8 million people. So Perth is already around 2/3rds the land area of the Big Apple, but with just 14% of the population. Could it really expand to a third larger in area terms than the city that is so good they named it twice (New York, New York)? And will Perth then be known as the Big Rock Melon?

Population Projection Perth 2010 to 2050

Bumper to Bumper
Perth people love their cars and in 2006 there were around 900,000 private motor vehicles. If we show the same propensity to get around by motor vehicle we could have almost 2,000,000 privately owned cars by 2050. Would this mean more than doubling our current 13,500 kilometres of roads so that we aren’t in permanent gridlock?

And we are still using these cars to get to and from work, despite the exhortations of environmentalists. Currently almost 75% of Perth people drive to work and under 10% use public transport. This is a ratio that will almost certainly have to change by 2050, unless we all start riding electrically powered Vespas, or perhaps the local product, the V-Moto?

Power For The People
Of course twice as many people means twice as much power and water will be required. According to the Water Corporation “Climate change has seen a dramatic reduction in the stream-flows into Perth’s dams by up to 50% as a result of a 12% decline in rainfall over the last decade.”

In the 2008/2009 financial year, the average amount of scheme water each person used in Perth was 280 litres each day (www.watercorporation.com.au/D/dams_storage.cfm). Unless we start showering together and brick paving our lawns we might need to start building more desalination plants. The Water Corporation has released a 50 year plan to deliver sustainable water and wastewater services to Perth (www.thinking50.com.au) to address this issue.

Alinta Gas has 3,000MW of installed generation capacity of gas, to fire up our water heaters, stoves and space heaters. Maybe global warming won’t see us need to increase that capacity by as much as the projected population increase?

Similarly, if we keep using our air conditioners, clothes dryers and electric leaf blowers as much as we do now, we will need to double the amount of electricity that we currently produce.

Perth city skyline

Packed School Lunches
We’re constantly being told we need to get smarter as a nation and as at 2008 WA had 1,065 schools, catering to 275,000 students. Schools Australia (cat. 4221.0)
In an expanded Perth this could mean over 2,300 schools and over 600,000 students. This may mean stiff competition for school names. Already there are 73 schools named after saints, including 12 after St Joseph and 9 after St Mary. The canonisation of Mary McKillop should see a rise in the latter count.
We’ve heard about how the population is ageing, but even if it didn’t, growth alone would increase the numbers requiring assistance. In 2006 just over 50,000 people required assistance with a core activity such as self-care. By 2050 this could rise as high as 112,000.

So, what does the future hold? According to UWA Professor Richard Weller, by using a unique approach, diversifying, whilst becoming more resilient and experimenting with new forms, Perth should meet its expected population growth of over 3 million people by 2050.

Phil Smythe
Article by Phil Smythe, Client Liaison Unit - Living extravagantly on a quarter acre block.