Chat with us, powered by LiveChatBig population isn't a problem if we plan for it

Big population isn't a problem if we plan for it

Melbourne can handle many more people and still be a liveable city.

Melbourne's population growth is likely to slow from an average 1.65 per cent over the past 50 years to 1.4 per cent over the next 50 years. Despite this slowing growth, it will still give Melbourne a population of about 8 million people in or around the year 2060. What will the city be like? Will it be liveable, or will it be congested and unliveable?

Recent public debate has seen high-profile commentators, such as Dick Smith on this page yesterday, arguing that population rates should be controlled. They say even 1.4 per cent is too fast, even though we have grown successfully at that rate for 150 years! We can risk economic growth, they argue, as we need to slow population growth to reduce congestion and pollution.

But is population growth the problem, or is it planning for the population that is the problem?

Consider this: a small village can be dirty and congested if it is planned and administered poorly. Likewise, a large city can be clean and uncongested if planned and administered well.

The truth is that population is not the problem — the problem is planning and administration for the likely population size.

The Committee for Melbourne believes a focus on population size is dangerous, as it is distracting the community from debating how we plan, fund and build the right infrastructure for a growing city.

We need a 50-year plan for Melbourne and a new planning and implementation mechanism that includes deep community consultation and engagement.

We need to reinstate long-range planning in our city. The Hoddle grid was laid out with 30-metre-wide streets as the planners of Melbourne believed in a long-term view for our city.

They bequeathed us main streets up to 50 per cent wider than Sydney's. Consequently, we have more light and more amenity in our streets.

Likewise, the old Melway used to have road, rail and development reservations dotted through it, as the old Board of Works gave Melbourne long-term planning options. Open a Melway today and where are the reservation options? Mostly gone, as has our long-term planning.

The new Minister for Planning, Matthew Guy, is starting to talk openly about long-term planning — and his ideas about an urban renewal authority are good. But it is time that we, the general community, stepped up and engaged in the debate on planning and funding our future, not falling for populist lines on population control.

We want freedom of movement between the states. We want the freedom to choose our family sizes. We need skilled migration at least until the superannuation changes are implemented in full in 2025, and we need to take our fair share of humanitarian arrivals. Our population will grow. We need to get over it and make some effective plans for the future of the city.

Source: The Age Domain