If we built it, would they come?

In 2011, over 85% of Australians lived in urban areas and nearly 70% lived in our capital cities, making Australia one of the world’s most urbanised countries. In contrast, 100 years ago less than 40% of Australia’s population lived in our capital cities. ₁

At June 2013, just under two-thirds of the state’s population (4.76 million people) resided in Greater Sydney. Population growth in Greater Sydney accounted for 78% of the state’s total growth in 2012-13. ₂

The population density of NSW at June 2013 was 9.3 people per square kilometre (sq. km)

In Greater Sydney, the population density was 380 people per sq. km The top four most densely-populated areas in Australia were located around Sydney’s central business district; inner-city Pyrmont – Ultimo (14,300 people per sq. km), Potts Point – Woolloomooloo (13,600), Darlinghurst (13,300) and Surry Hills (13,100). ₃

POPULATION DENSITY BY SA2, Greater SydneyJune 2013₄


That’s a lot of people in a relatively small space by anybody’s standards and you’re probably, quite rightly, asking “Why is she bombarding us with all these figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics?”

Well….I was thinking about Kevin Costner (as one does) and his 1989 movie Field of Dreams and the line; “If you build it, he will come”. This in turn led me to pondering the level of population drift from rural and remote areas of the state as well as my experiences at several Country Living Expos in Sydney where many city-siders expressed a desire to relocate to rural NSW but who were not interested in areas where there was a perceived lack of facilities and services; i.e. infrastructure.

I’m happy to admit simplistic thinking in my ponderings here; but if infrastructure continues to be built in Greater Sydney, its surrounds and areas along the coast, in anticipation of the expected population increase and less is spent in rural NSW (presumably in anticipation of an expected decline), are we not creating a self-fulfilling prophecy?

housing deficit

I’m not saying upgrades are not necessary for Sydney’s ever increasing population, just suggesting a Catch 22 scenario that would require a huge shift in thinking and much vision, courage, votes and money to implement. Realistic goal setting has never been my forte.

A quick perusal of the Infrastructure NSW State Infrastructure Strategy Update 2014 and the interactive map shows various projects that are proposed for Regional areas and the eastern seaboard. You will note that I have not mentioned rural or remote regions; neither does the Strategy. Unless you count “Clinical redesign – NSW Health will continue development of business cases….for regional and rural modernisation program”???

Only one key area; Energy, shows as being state-wide (as it should be) but only in the context of changing the fuel mix, the role of gas (interesting) and investor confidence and reform in the sector (also interesting).

The only reference I can find that would be considered remote is under the key area of Health where Tibooburra is the only site west of the divide (out of 19), identified as experiencing an ageing population and requiring a “one stop shop” of core services for vulnerable members of the community.

Have a look for yourself and see if you think I am being paranoid. Click here to have a look.

Considering the strategy and the possible implications for rural and remote NSW and remembering why the Country Women’s Association came into being in 1922; I believe there is still a place for the organisation.

Do you?


₁Australian Bureau of Statistics – Historical Population Statistics, 2014

₂, ₃, ₄ Australian Bureau of Statistics – Regional Population Growth, Australia, 2012-13

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