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News & opinion

25 MAR 2018

Planning for our growing population

Between 2017 and 2046, Australia’s population is projected to increase by 11.8 million people. That’s equivalent to adding a new city, roughly the size of Canberra, each year for the next 30 years. While New Zealand has one of the fastest rates of population growth among the OECD countries.

The Cities for our Future challenge continues, inviting imaginative solutions to some of the defining issues of our time: rapid urbanisation, climate change, and resource scarcity.

Last month, Infrastructure Australia launched a report showing how they plan to address Australia’s growing cities, Future Cities: Planning for our growing population.

Despite the report's Australia focus, the findings are relevant to cities across Oceania, struggling with the effects of population growth.

Key trends

The key trends noted in the report reflect challenges other growing cities are facing around the world. The main areas of change highlighted by Infrastructure Australia are:

  • The ageing population: Over the next 40 years the proportion of the population aged 65 and over will significantly increase, while the proportion of working-age people will decrease.
  • Rapid technological transformation: Technological change is disrupting how goods and services are provided, regulated, consumed and paid for across a range of sectors.
  • The increasing urban freight task: Australia’s containerised freight task is projected to increase by 165% by 2031.
  • The impacts of climate change: The changing global climate is likely to affect Australia’s cities which are generally located in coastal areas.
  • The shifting structure of national and global economies: The national economy is transitioning from the mining investment boom to a focus on service and knowledge-intensive activities.
  • Changes to the nature and location of work: Technological innovations are enabling changes to the way we work, from increased productivity and efficiency, to impacting the nation’s key employment centres.


The report looked at a number of scenarios, with the following nine findings:

  1. Unplanned growth delivers the worst outcomes for Australia’s fastest growing cities;
  2. Public transport is crucial to improving accessibility;
  3. Cars continue to play an important role in our cities. However, across all scenarios, congestion significantly increases, and adding new roads is only part of the solution;
  4. We need to use existing infrastructure in our largest cities more efficiently;
  5. As demand increases, coordinating and prioritizing additional or upgraded infrastructure between and within governments will be a challenge;
  6. Well-planned infrastructure to service employment centres enhances the job accessibility of our cities and can deliver national benefits;
  7. Land-use and infrastructure planning can help to address inequality of access across our largest cities, but supporting social and economic policies are also required;
  8. As our largest cities grow and densify, green and public spaces plan an increasingly important role in maintaining livability;
  9. Land-use changes can play some role in addressing the amount of carbon emissions our cities generate.

Read the full Infrastructure Australia report

Feel inspired?

We’re looking for students, start-ups and young professionals to submit their ideas to the Cities for our Future challenge. The winning idea will receive prize money of around $90,000.

Read about our two regional briefs, Melbourne and Christchurch, and put together your submission.