Having spent the first fifteen years of my life in Townsville, I’m a great supporter of regional Queensland, but as an economist I think the Government needs to do some further analysis before it commits large amounts of money to regional infrastructure under plans announced by the Local Government Minister last week (Regions set for boost):
LOCAL Government Minister David Crisafulli announced further plans to create infrastructure for regional communities.
“There is a prospect of growing regional centres and I think it’s something we should embrace on one condition – the infrastructure has got to be delivered ahead of the game,” Mr Crisafulli said last Monday.
The regional infrastructure plan appears consistent with the Queensland Plan aspiration to have half the population living outside South-East Queensland in thirty years’ time. But it’s unclear how the Queensland Plan aspiration can be achieved – assuming realistic policy settings – given that the Queensland Government population projections show SEQ’s share of Queensland’s population at 66.6 per cent in 2031, up slightly from 66.1 per cent in 2006. The Queensland Plan’s aspiration means around 1 million people more would have to live in regional Queensland than currently expected (based on the 2031 projected population; the number would be even higher if based on a projection of the 2044 population). I’m skeptical about whether this can be achieved.
The Queensland Plan is still only in draft form. Before the Government finalises it, and commits large amounts of money to regional infrastructure, it should seek updated official population projections from Queensland Treasury to see if its expectations of regional population growth are achievable. The whole point of official population projections is to inform infrastructure and service delivery decisions, and hence it’s important to update these projections which were last reviewed in 2011.