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Is Geelong ready?

By Emma Smith
GEELONG would be home to more than 1 million people in less than 40 years under a new regional population shift.
The Regional Australia Institute has released its Regional Population Growth — Are We Ready? report, promoting alternative population growth scenarios that would ease pressure on capital cities and give regional areas such as Geelong an economic boost.
It models three scenarios — “business as usual” growth, moderate regional growth and high regional growth, where up to 2.1 million future residents are diverted from Melbourne to regional centres.
“Business as usual” would see Geelong, which had a population of 278,929 in 2016, reach 440,491 by 2056, while with moderate growth our city wold hit 761,192. The report predicts if 20-40 per cent of population growth is diverted from Melbourne to the regions, Geelong will grow by 4 per cent annually, reaching 1.1 million people by 2056.
Mayor Bruce Harwood said a big Geelong was a highly likely scenario, and urged discussion about our infrastructure needs.
He said the Regional Australia Institute models would require a shift in government mindset away from prioritising major projects in capital cities.
“To successfully absorb a 4 per cent growth rate, Geelong would need serious investment from the state and federal governments in infrastructure, especially in relation to public transport,” he said.
“The long-awaited high-frequency fast rail connection between Geelong and Melbourne would be an absolute must, along with large-scale improvements to public transport services within Geelong.
“With smart planning and investment from all levels of government, it is possible for Geelong to grow sustainably and retain the lifestyle features we enjoy, such as our natural environment and the relative lack of congestion. But the work must start now.”
G21 CEO Elaine Carbines said governments needed to ensure growth was well planned and spread sensibly.
“Ambitious high-level growth of up to 1.1 million people by the mid-2050s, such as flagged … in the institute’s report, would be particularly challenging,” she said.
“Already governments are struggling to keep up with the Geelong region’s infrastructure needs, such as rail, roads, schools, sporting facilities and community centres. Our challenge is to manage the inevitable population growth in a way that protects the natural assets and the lifestyle that makes our region so special.
The report predicts redistribution of population growth contributing an increase to annual incomes of about 4.6 per cent ($2800), an increase in average house costs of 10 per cent ($34,000), and no real change in commute distance.
Buxton Geelong agent Ben Riddle said Geelong had already seen massive migration from Melbourne, based on lifestyle choices and more affordable property.
“Our offering is totally unique, and if the infrastructure side continues to build, we’ve certainly got the land supply,” Mr Riddle said,“We’ve got capacity to fit more people in, but it needs proper planning.”
Planning is underway for a 200km/h bullet train to cut travel time between Melbourne and Geelong to 32 minutes.
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