In late March this year, the Australian Bureau of Statistics released their regional population statistics for the 2019-20 financial year. This 12-month period is uniquely interesting to us because it includes the first six months of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the first three months of border closures.
Contrary to popular belief, population growth outside Australian capitals (1.1%) was lower than the capitals (1.4%). Brisbane overtook Melbourne as the highest-growth city, adding 1.9% to their population over the year. Brisbane’s growth was fuelled almost evenly between the three sources of population growth: natural increase (births minus deaths), internal migration (people migrating from elsewhere in Australia), and overseas migration.
Areas with the highest growth rates reflect the urban sprawl of major cities, with Melbourne taking three of the top five (Mickleham – Yuroke, Rockbank – Mount Cottrell and Wollert)—all of which grew by more than 20 percent over the year. In the case of Queensland, Pimpama (in the Gold Coast) grew the most by quantity (2,700 people) and third by percentage (14 percent). Other Queensland areas which saw high levels of population growth included Ipswich and the Sunshine Coast.
These trends support some media reporting but debunk others. The persistent argument made by some property commentators (with special interest in regional areas) that regions are growing faster than cities doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, even when cities are missing out on their usually dominant levels of net overseas migration. With border closures prevailing over FY 2020-21, it is likely that population growth in Sydney and Melbourne will be lower than expected, but certain growth areas within our major cities will likely remain Australia’s population growth hotspots now and into the medium term.