City of Ballarat Mayor Cr Samantha McIntosh has backed calls for a campaign to promote living in regional Australia and to help drive a distributed population scenario into the future.
A Regional Australia Institute’s report, Regional Population Growth: Are We Ready?, calls for alternative population growth scenarios that could ease pressures on capital cities and give regional areas an economic boost.
Cr McIntosh, who is also the Regional Capitals Australia chair, said the report confirms what Regional Capitals Australia has known for years – that building bigger metropolitan cities is not better for Australia.
“Building connected, productive and liveable regional capital cities is the key to a liveable future for Australia,” Cr McIntosh said.
“We are not only ready to grow – we are growing – and we look forward to working with both the federal and state governments to ease the squeeze on the major capitals.
“The report also endorses what RCA has been calling for, which is: increased funding for road, rail and air connectivity in regional capital cities; migration planning to encourage people to live in regional Australia; decentralisation of federal departments; 10 new Regional Deals over 2019-2023 to increase connectivity, liveability and productivity in regional capital cities.
“We know that Ballarat is currently already experiencing nearly unprecedented population growth but we have been planning for this for years.
“We are living proof that regional areas can be a viable option to living in Melbourne or Sydney or Perth.
“We have more affordable housing, we have a relatively easy commute to Melbourne, we offer a safe and welcoming environment, we have ample family friendly facilities and we provide a cheaper lifestyle.”
eCommunity Press asked the Mayor whether Ballarat was ready for further increase in its population and what this increase means to ratepayers and the wider community.
Cr McIntosh said research conducted by Regional Australia Institute (RAI) suggested that those regional cities that work with a ‘hub and spoke’ model generally work very well.
An example of a hub and spoke would be for Ballarat to be the hub and the spokes would be towns such as Beaufort, Clunes, Ararat, Stawell, Castlemaine etc.
“So if Ballarat has strong universities, strong hospitals and good infrastructure then the regions tend to use Ballarat as the hub and they tend to be much more successful regional communities,” Cr McIntosh explained.
“So our goal is not to work on just what Ballarat needs, it’s what the broader regions need.
“It’s a more useful and viable spend of State and Federal dollar, as well.”
The Mayor agreed that currently there was more growth taking place in Ballarat than in the broader region but added as Ballarat provides stronger systems and networks, then the broader regions will grow with that.
“We don’t want to grow overnight but we want to make sure that our plans are ahead of the demand so that we have the right delivery available,” Cr McIntosh said.
Adding that she feels the City is prepared for the growth.
“For instance, that growth that is happening in the north, north-west, the Lucas type development, plus also the Delacombe development – all that side of town is happening now. Then there is further forecast development around the Miners Rest Mt Rowan area and then further down the track in 5, 10 to 20 years we move to the east side of Ballarat,” Cr McIntosh said.
“It needs to be planned, it needs to be a pattern that responds to the demand and it needs not to be flippant, hit and miss development.
“We have done some great master planning work in our growth areas, making sure we are working with the developers, making sure there is the developer contribution funds so that has to be other infrastructure in place.”
She cited the Lucas development with the shopping centre, health hub and schools, plantings, footpaths, traffic lights and roundabouts.
“What you would have seen a couple of decades before is the residential development without that appropriate community infrastructure,” Cr McIntosh said.
“I would say the important thing for us is to recognise that the growth is happening, we can’t stop it, we can’t put gates up on our freeway.
“We, as a city, need to plan for it and we are. I would say to anyone who is asking questions about the growth at the moment to refer to our council plans, to our masterplan and they will se and understand and have the comfort and confidence that we actually have these strategies in place to make sure that we have the right infrastructure to respond to the new developments that we’ve got.”