The future of regional Australia

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It’s predicted that Australia will experience a population explosion in the coming decades. Melbourne alone is set to grow from four million to eight million by 2050, overtaking Sydney to become Australia’s largest city by 2030.

A larger population means a more robust workforce, and numerous economic benefits, however there are obvious issues as well. Congestion, waste disposal and food supply issues are all examples of the problems that come with a dramatic increase in population.

So what’s the solution to the problems that we’ll face as Australia grows? Researchers at Deakin University argue that greater use of our substantial regional areas holds the key to a bright future for Australia.

Growing pains

The Australian population increases by one person every minute. Recent Department of the Environment and Energy figures show that less than one per cent of Australia’s landmass is taken up by urban intensive areas, while further studies show that 88 per cent of our population lives in these areas.

Associate Professor Victor Sposito, from Deakin University’s Centre for Regional and Rural Futures (CeRRF) argues that regional Australia has largely been left out of the planning equation for this growth, with regional Victoria only expected to grow from 1.4 million to 2.2 million by 2050.

Assoc. Prof. Sposito claims that the development of regional Australia will be crucial to combating the problems associated with population growth, like traffic, crime, unemployment and poverty.

‘Regional Victoria is the main food and fibre production and exporting territory for the nation. Our research suggests that at least 30 to 40 per cent of population growth should be in the country’, Assoc. Prof. Sposito says.

A regional solution

While we know the problems that face us, many of our solutions are reactive rather than taking a long term view with regional development in mind.

Assoc. Prof. Sposito believes that the support of sustainable development of agricultural industries will help increase the development in regional Australia.

He further argues that development and investment also need to include access to technology, national transport and education to encourage more people to view regional Australia as a viable option to live, work and raise their families in.

'Regional Victoria is the main food and fibre production and exporting territory for the nation. Our research suggests that at least 30 to 40 per cent of population growth should be in the country.'

Associate Professor Victor Sposito,
Centre for Regional and Rural Futures, Deakin University

In order to achieve this, Assoc. Prof. Sposito and his colleagues at CeRRF have developed a methodology for achieving smarter use of these areas. Using soil and land information and climate change projections, they have built models that identify commodities and the most suitable areas. Recognising the other uses of regional land apart from producing food, is key to these models. Aspects such as recreation, social care, protecting biodiversity and climate change mitigation are all important assets for regional environments.

‘With a multifunctional approach and by exploiting our science knowledge base, we could achieve employment five to 10 times higher in regional areas,’ Assoc. Prof. Sposito says.

Calling for more collaboration, Assoc. Prof. Sposito argues that, ‘State and local governments, planners, industry groups and communities need to work together so we can shape a better future.’

Learn more about sustainable regional development at Deakin.

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Associate Professor Victor Sposito
Associate Professor Victor Sposito

Centre for Regional and Rural Futures, Deakin University

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