Sunday 29 November 2009

35 million by 2050 is shocking

Geoff Holland, who runs the Art of Creative Living, and co-ordinates the long-running Cairns-Coev discussion forum.

Following Rudd's comments that he believes in a "big Australia" and that the population forecast is good news for the country, but he concedes it poses complex challenges.

Geoff debates the touchy subject of managing our population.

On what basis does an increased population generate a higher quality of life?

The quality of life in the US - similar size but more than 10 times the population, is no better than Australia - I suggest lower.

What is the population of Cairns now - 150,000? What will it be in 2050 - 350,000? This is a faster growth rate than Australian average. I suggest the quality of life in Cairns has peaked and will drop with increasing population (and alienation, traffic, concrete and glass towers, aircraft and traffic noise, etc.

But it need not drop too much if we make the right policy decisions. There is a myth that we cannot prevent population growth in Cairns.

We cannot build a wall and keep people out - true, and we have no right to do this, of course.

However, we can...

  1. lobby, as a local government and as a community, the Federal government to reduce immigration quotas and abandon the baby bonus.

  2. restrict the rezoning of green open spaces to residential and industrial, thus increasing the value of land making it more expensive for people to settle here, and also encouraging urban consolidation.

  3. focus less on bringing industry quantity and jobs quantity to the Cairns region, and focus more on industry and jobs quality.

  4. design policies to expand other centres such as Mareeba rather than making Mareeba, Koah, Kuranda, Gordonvale, Port Douglas satellite dormitory suburbs of Cairns like the Kuranda Range Highway folly.

  5. have urban planning and tax policies that make it less attractive for developers. Developers run multi-million dollar advertising campaigns in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane etc to attract people up here.

While we need jobs security and economic security and stability in Cairns and Far North Queensland diversify away from tourism, growing in population and infrastructure will not necessarily make us wealthier, and is likely to reduce the quality of life.


Graham Harrington said...

Well yes I agree with you Geoff - and with Pat, Rupert and Denis - but hey! Dont push your unwanted citizens up here on the Tablelands. At least not without consulting us up here first!

I for one like small communities, which is why I came to Malanda. For some reason, all the Regional Planning has never accepted there COULD be a population ceiling or target. They just say it will escalate property values in an unsustainable way. As though ever increasing population is sustainable!

I must say I never imagined that I would hear Rudd say that he thought a vastly increased population was good because it would bring "economic development".

I thought he had more sense. How can we get a government that will accept we dont need an increase in our standard of living - just a more equitable distribution of wealth - internationally!
Some hopes!

Pat Daley said...

i couldn't agree more ,it's about time more people spoke out against the insane policy espoused by k rudd and his ilk
pat daly, member of sustainable population australia

Denis Walls said...

The problem for the last 35 years has been selling the message of limits to growth both economic and in population - which we know must apply in a finite planet - to mainstream political parties responding like Pavlov’s dog to an ever more consumer-mad, short term, quick fix, advertising driven society. More people means more economic growth to improve the ‘consumer confidence’ spending index, an upsurge of which is sonorously delivered as great news by all standard media outlets.

As well as driving greater consumption – buying things we frequently don’t need – encouraging population growth is the lazy politician’s way of raising more revenue through taxation and rates without having to deal with the consequences of faltering infrastructure and diminished quality of life. That will be left to others when he or she has left the stage.

It is clear that we have to stabilise and then reduce our population. This, ultimately, should require the well off, as Graham says, having to accept less if we aspire to global equity in a carbon constrained, warming and water-deficient world. We need to ‘live more simply so that others may simply live’. For starters, as Tim Flannery has suggested, the Federal Government needs to establish a Minister of Population to start the serious debate about what constitutes a realistic number of people for this country.

Unless we start doing some joined up thinking and acting on the true meaning of sustainability, and not just its greenwash version, then ‘quality of life’, ‘back to basics’ or ‘living lightly’ and other environmental catch cries will only mean something when that storm surge wave slams into the local air-conditioned shopping complex.

John Rainbird said...

Give that globally we are well past the point of sustainability, continued growth in population as well as continued growth in consumption will really only lead to a decline in quality of life for the majority of the world’s population ( and our non-human brothers and sisters who have to suffer quietly as we feed their worlds into our economic machinery as a ‘resource’).

The developed nations are temporarily insulated from this being the main beneficiaries of material well being, but it seems there is growing evidence of “social recession” where growing economies deliver diminishing returns wrt wellbeing.

We are likely to see a significant increase in refugees over coming years due to a range of factors and Australia will have to decide what role it will play in accommodating some of these displaced peoples. Our region might have to play a role in accommodating peoples displaced from low lying Pacific Islands – people are already being displaced in some areas of the western provinces of PNG by sea level rise, and the latest CC science has again upped the estimate of sea-level rise projections by 2100 (annual increase currently tracking at 80% above previous IPCC projections).

Demographics add a complicating dimension to the population debate and migration is yet another dimension. I personally don’t see global population every reaching 9 billion – many major earth systems are already at or close to breaking point at current levels. We test these boundaries at our peril.

hieronymus bosch said...

quality of life here peaked 8-10 years ago imho.

before bella vista etc 'invited' mexican immigrants, congested roads, not enuff water, etc

is it me, or do the local economies around this country solely depend on construction (where there isn't mining)?

nocturnal congress said...

So, too will we in FNQ have to provide a home for growing numbers of people from NSW, SA and Victoria affected by drought and fire. We are in the midst of a major population shuffle...from the South to the North. And don't forget the retiring baby boomers. A large proportion of them will want to retire here where it's warm.

Al said...

The unsustainable nature of our population is the big sleeper. It should be a much bigger issue than climate change, deforestation, the massive extinction of species, and the World-wide collapse of fish stocks in all oceans. But it's not. Amazingly, political leaders (with few exceptions) are unable to make the simple connection between over-population and the collapse of natural systems. Like lemmings, we rush to the precipice.

John, Kuranda said...

One of the biggest challenges for Cairns will be where, and how, to house the growing population. The decisions will not be easy, and the battles to save the Cairns lifestyle as we now know it will be long and probably ugly.

Now that I am back in Darwin semi-fulltime for at least the next 18 months I have had the opportunity to look around the City. When I left 8 years ago, the Darwin peninsular had few high-rises; those that were here topped out at 8-9 stories. In 2009 we now have the government trumpeting that they have “put a suburb in the CBD”. And this is a thing of pride! It’s the Darwin answer to a land shortage. Does that sound familiar?

High rise developments are springing up all over. The tallest, at the moment, is thirty four stories of above standard ceiling heights. It is called Evolution on Gardiner for the googolites. The old tropical style homes (as iconic as the old Queenslander in Cairns) have all but disappeared replaced by rectangular boxes of the most garish design and colour scheme. It is, I am told, all part of being a modern city.

The price tags are certainly not modest; a three bedroom apartment on the 6th floor of Evolution will set you back $700K with other higher up the tower on the market for a cool $1.5M! But they are selling like hotcakes of the plans and often to locals.

The idea of upwards rather than outwards is now being echoed by Anna Bligh with regards to SE Queensland. How long before the cry is echoed in Cairns? The sticking point in all this is of course the placement of the Cairns Airport. In a way the sale of the Airport makes the development of Cairns less high-rise certain. Who remembers the old Hong Kong airport with pilots forced to manoeuvre between apartment blocks? But there are probably still plenty of sites that would be suitable for the suburbs of the future.

KitchenSlut said...

"I actually believe in a big Australia I make no apology for that"

There is current demographic evidence of a population growth surge in Australia nationally both in the birth rate and immigration. This correlates well with the long term trend change in the terms of trade (export prices v import prices) and national income.

There is no evidence af any substantive population shift recently from the south to FNQ much different to national trends?

Iqbal said...

This is a great blog Mike as it draws out the "Not in My Back Yard" tossers that plague this site. I suspect that not one of them is a traditional owner of this area and therefore believe that they have a right to move here but nobody else does. Does that sound a bit selfish to anyone? FNQ, despite the whingers who seem to gather here, is paradise and plenty of people are going to move here and seek a piece of the action. The trick is to get the planning right not build a great wall of Cairns as the bloggers above seem to suggest. Whoever suggests that Cairns peeked 8 years ago must have spent the day by the computer instead of getting out there and enjoying one of the most beautiful Sundays you can imagine. Look out the window you wankers - your in paradise and there is plenty to share.

Karen Clifton Beach said...

All very valid points, but all the points put responsiblity on government.

We can keep saying "someone needs to do something" and one day we may realise that person is me. There is one thing that can be done to keep population growth under control, that is in our control.

People can stop having children. We can make a choice to just stop adding to the worlds population. Having children is what increases population.

Joe-South Side said...

Yes Iqbal I am with you,Cairns can substantially increase its population.Hopwever one major problem wil be our dysfunctional Council.Not one of the current Council team has the nous to start planning in conjunction with the State Government,to bring on the necessary infrastructure required.

nocturnal congress said...

Queensland's population through natural increase looks set to boom now that the abortion laws have been turned around.

Unknown said...

Before the goose that laid the golden egg is strangled in FNQ, the population for 2009 and rate of growth "estimates" to 2050, need to be taken with a grain of salt.

They measured an absolute peak rate of growth or "spike" and they include visitors who have spent 12/16 months in Oz, these are:

Working Holiday Visa backpackers, international students studying (and paying fees) for more than one year, and temporary sponsored workers.

These numbers, especially students, are presently "falling off cliffs" while all skilled independent offshore migration application processing has been suspended till end of 2011.

As stated elsewhere, population is a great diversion for state and local government to cover up for lack of planning and regional development, let alone ageing baby boomers retiring....and the real estate industry to spruik for new buyers....

Al said...

To Joe-South Side: Yes everyone knows that Cairns can increase its population just as everyone knows cane toads are increasing theirs. But just so I can get my head around your thinking, could you please expand on your comment and tell me WHY you think it should. What is to be gained by doing so? How will doubling - tripling - quadrupling the population benefit us? And please don't restrict your answer to just Cairns; tell us if you think Queensland, or the whole of Australia - and for that matter Africa, Asia, America, and Europe could/should increase theirs? Could/should we make the current 6 billion into 12 billion? 24 billion?
And just to clarify; what is it you expect 'our 'dysfunctional' Council should be doing to assist the population growth you say we can have? Is it to rezone more agricultural land for industry and housing to fit them in and employ them? Build bund walls and drain the swamps and mangroves? Or is it more high-rise? Higher density housing estates? More highways, car parks, garbage tips? Thank you Joe, hope you can assist me with this.

hieronymus bosch said...

Val considers approving high rise to be the answer to saving our hillslopes from development, well what's left of them. This was her reasoning for approving KB's 18 story building beyond the 15 storey (?) limit.

But it isn't just this council. What we have is KB's legacy of greed via approving everything. (It amuses me how builders are now called developers, because it sounds so more positive... jobs, tourism!)

It's not that I don't want 'the other' moving here, it's that when they come they whine about the place and call us hillbillies. It's that they blather about 'tropical lifestyle' while supping wine in air conditioned comfort.

It's that 'developers' have made millions of dollars out of luring these people here without ever being conditioned to put anything back into the tragically lacking infrastructure, such as roads and water. So we all suffer.

I believe that if there had been a 'Tropical Lifestyle Levy' of $50,000 per head introduced a decade ago to all newcomers, we may have avoided this.

Providing this levy hadn't been wasted on KB's whiskey addiction or Blakey's birthday parties, it could have been used to build and widen roads. It could have been used to find an added water supply, for Copperlode Dam was only built to service 80,000.

Most importantly, it could have been used to re-educate this mob in ways that fit into the so-called 'tropical lifestyle', such as,
-how to be polite to each other,
-how to use your blinkers when you intend to turn a corner in your car,
-how to not shake your head and comment about those less fortunate,
-how to get off your high horse
-how to drive your 4WD around a corner without going on the wrong side of the road,
-how to be polite to service staff and cleaners,
-how to be kind to cyclists, even the ones who are dickheads,
-how to realise that's what best for you isn't necessarily best for Cairns


Jammed up in Kewarra said...

As a "foreigner" now living here, I have struggled to understand how Australians arrive at "logical" answers to an issue.

Here we have a country that's 95% empty, and you insist on jamming single family homes closer and closer together. Kewarra Beach has been ruined by these 380 sqm blocks and skinny little streets, and now they've got boats and second cars parked on front lawns because there's no place to put them.

City high-rise buildings are jammed right up to the property lines, with no greenspace, setback, or other relief from these giant buildings.

Apartments buildings are built with no provision for light or breeze, somehow thinking piling people on top of each other cheek by jowl isn't a recipe for social instability.

You people ARE aware, aren't you, that 95% of this land mass is empty? Why do you insist on emulating all that's bad about Japan, or Singapore, or Delhi?

You're one wacky bunch, you Aussies.

concerned said...

To Jammed up in Kewarra,

Yes.... maybe only around 10% of the country's land is utilised. However, have you been into the interior? Either bloody boiling hot or freezing cold, very little infrastructure, no water. Water shortages are bad enough in the SE of QLD. Imagine millions living near Birdsville of Alice.... where is the food being grown nearby? Where is the water and energy supplies coming from? All quite simple really... Coastal fringe living is where is sustainable land (and weather) is. (It's not like the interior of England out there.)

Pretty sure there have been sustainability studies for the amount of population Australia could hold. Think we are close to or over that amount already. Remember, Jammed up, we are on the driest continent on earth here.

(I agree with people above, present amount of population is unsustainable worldwide, not only here)


The Future of Oz said...

concerned sez: "However, have you been into the interior? Either bloody boiling hot or freezing cold, very little infrastructure, no water. "

That's what they said about Los Angeles, in 1900. That's what they said about Saudi Arabia, the UAE. That's what they said about Xizhang province in China.

Smart, hard-working peoples around the world have taken arid, so-called "unlivable" land and made it productive and habitable with infrastructure and hard work.

It's untenable for humans to occupy such a small percentage of such a large continent. Frankly, historically speaking, our adjoining neighbours won't allow it. When the Indonesians, Indians, or other neighbours, in search of more living space decide to take over, you'll see how productive and livable these interior areas will become.

Al said...

There, it's been said; 'The Future of Oz' has at last articulated the base fear that drives this population debate: If we don't fill the place up with hundreds (of white people?) to the square mile, those Indonesians, Indians, etc, will come down and take it off us. It's an irrational fear which dwells deep in the national psyche, and it has been driving the debate since Arthur Calwell's catch-cry of populate-or-perish.

concerned said...

I understand other countries do use the arid areas for instance: there is an extensive use of shade/greenhouses in arid areas to facilitate the use of such lands. Do you a bit of an interest in this topic...

However, the cost of opening up the interior for it to become usable for millions of people is going to be astronomical. The infrastructure needed, the distances to cover, the adaptation to the extreme weather...(Is it going to be like Phoenix, Arizona, everyone living in air-conditioning, using heaps of water to keep a green lawn.) Where is the money going to come from?

Personally it is not the financials which are worrying. Australia land has proven to be very delicate. We already have huge problems with erosion, salinity and the Murray/Darling fiasco to illustrate what can happen here when we put too high a load on the Australian landscape. How about the lack of water in basically most of the rest of Australia, apart from lucky us up here. Like I said before studies have been done on the amount of people which Australia can sustain and opening up the interior for a high population load is simply not sustainable. There are very good reasons such a small percentage of Australia should be occupied.

Joe-South Side said...

Hello Al.
May I suggest you keep your eye on the ball.I am not suggesting anything about increase in word population or problems in other countries.I am simply agreeing that Cairns could do with an increase in population.Why you may ask,the answer is we need increased water storage,improved parking facilities,a better road and rail public transport system,a new separate access road to at least Townsville,etc.etc.
I can assure you Al,with our population of around 120000 to140000,we will not receive much Government support,because we do not have the votes to sway to Government.An increase in population and votes may in time sway Governments to provide us with acceptable facilities.

Al said...

Thanks for that Joe, though sadly I'm missing your logic.
Hypothetical question: If the population of Cairns remained static, why would we need all the additional things you have listed above? With the present population of 120-140K, we get infrastructure funding commensurate to our size. If we grew to 240-260K, we would still only get infrastructure funding commensurate to our size. It might be twice as much, but there would be twice as much to do with it. What would we have achieved?

Joe-South Side said...

Hello Al,
I suggest you are missing the point.With our present Cairns population,we have not the required infrastructure that should be available to us,example,
we have a 80"annual rainfall,yet water is not harnassed,it is left to run off and be wasted.that is the reason we have water restrictions!!

Al said...

Thanks Jo, not so much missing the point, more that we have philosophical differences on these issues.
When the Barron River thunders through the gorge after tropical storms, I don't see it as wasted water, just the cycle of nature and how it is meant to be. Of course, we (and every other living thing) must take what's needed to live, but I question the extent to which we do that (think Murray-Darling river system).
As for water restrictions; put in your own infrastructure - tank/s ... as big as you need. You'll have more water than you can ever sensibly use. And free!

Joe-South Side said...

Hello Al,
Your reply to eliminating the water restrictions in Cairns I cannot agree with.It appears your answers to the lack of required infrastructure in Cairns are too simplistic.
Following your line of debate,you would suggest instead of having to purchase milk and butter,have a cow in your back yard and we could have free milk.
Al, this is my last blog on this matter.