Growth spurt led by immigration squeezes capitals

Australia’s population is booming on the back of the highest immigration intake for more than four years, piling pressure on house prices but helping staunch the flow of West Australians to the eastern states.

Australia’s population rose ­almost 350,000 — of which ­almost 200,000 was net immigration — to 24.2 million over the year to September, producing a 1.5 per cent growth rate, faster than almost any other country in the 34-nation OECD group of ­nations except New Zealand.

“Such growth means we need five new hospitals, 31 new schools and 35 new childcare centres every three months”, said Rob Tyson, an economist at Price­waterhouseCoopers, noting the growth was concentrated in Victoria and NSW.

“Their big cities are already ­experiencing the challenges of ­accommodating a rapidly growing population such as strongly and persistently rising house prices, more congestion and strained infrastructure.’’

Western Australia’s population growth has slowed to the lowest rate, 1 per cent, in more than 35 years, as the construction phase of the resource boom peters out, taking its toll on job opportunities and incomes.

“What started as a trickle has grown steadily to a strong flow of people leaving over the past few years,” Mr Tyson said.

Australian Immigration

The flow of people out of WA, which has been losing residents steadily since 2013, is accelerating: more than 9100 people left ­between September 2015 and last September, compared with 2700 the previous year.

Meanwhile, Victoria’s population is booming, increasing 127,000, or more than 2.1 per cent, over the year — the fastest pace since 2009 — on the back of rapid ­immigration from overseas and interstate, and strong natural population growth.

“That’s adding a city larger than Ballarat or Bendigo every year,” Mr Tyson said.

Matt and Jo Luscombe, of the Mornington Peninsula, said they feared Victoria’s rapid population growth would have adverse consequences for their one-year- old son Jack.

“With the prices of housing now, it’s a bit crazy if you’re a first-home buyer. So when he grows up, it’s going to be a lot harder for him to buy a house,” Ms Luscombe said.

Jack’s parents agreed immigration needed to be kept to a sustainable level. “If everyone keeps coming in, there is not going to be enough infrastructure for all these extra people,” Ms Luscombe said.

“Immigration is needed to bring skills in to do the job now, but obviously in the future it is going to affect Jack,” Mr Luscombe said.

The population growth figures come as governments scramble to find ways to ease the pressure of house price growth in Sydney and Melbourne (each up a further 10 per cent last year), and improve public infrastructure.

Greater Melbourne’s population has risen 25 per cent faster than Sydney’s since 2010, and is now more than 4.6 million.

South Australia’s population increased only 9000 over the year to September to 1.7 million, while Tasmania’s population rose only 2600 people to 519,000.

State population growth is a sum of natural increase (births minus deaths), interstate migra­tion and immigration.

Queensland and Victoria were the only states with net interstate immigration. All experienced natural growth and net overseas immigration.

Gareth Aird, a Commonwealth Bank economist, said strong population growth was giving a misleading indication of Australia’s economic performance. “The economy doesn’t look as strong on a per capita basis as it appears on an aggregate GDP growth basis,” he said.

Australia annual population growth soared above 400,000 during the height of the resource boom in 2008-09, when net immigration added more than 300,000 a year, but it since has tapered off. Source: theaustralian


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