The NSW planning minister Rob Stokes has endorsed the idea of a ‘national settlement strategy’ to help reduce the pressure on infrastructure by regulating Australia’s population.

A report released late last year by the Planning Institute of Australia advocated for a national settlement strategy, and argued that it was time to look differently at how Australia would accommodate future population growth. With Australia’s population projected to increase by 50 per cent over the next 30 years – most of it in major cities – the impact of population growth on infrastructure, community and environment continues to drive debate.

For instance, erroneous projections of population growth in cities such as Sydney and Melbourne have resulted in infrastructure development being unable to keep pace with population numbers, leading to increased congestion and longer commutes for residents.

With the federal government controlling immigration, state governments are at a loss when it comes to planning how much infrastructure is needed for their population. Net overseas migration into Australia has substantially increased over the last decade with most of the new arrivals preferring to settle in the major cities.

Clarifying that the ‘national settlement strategy’ is not against the high rate of immigration or about forcing people to settle anywhere, Stokes explains that it is all about better planning and creating better connected and more liveable cities. The current disconnect between urban planning and immigration, which had massive economic, social and environmental ramifications, needed to be addressed.  

Population growth in Australia is mainly driven by migration – mostly skilled migration – which has its own economic benefits. Net overseas migration for the year ending March 2019 was up 4.9 per cent over the previous year against the 1.6 per cent growth observed in Australia’s population.

Federal decisions on immigration are impacting planning decisions by states with the latter having no clue about the size and distribution of population or the number of people that will be relying on public services. 

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