Victorias-regional-centres-a-generation-of-change-Overview-report

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Victoria's regional centres - a generation of change Overview Simone Alexander, Spatial Analysis and Research Branch, Strategic Policy, Research and Forecasting Division April 2010
Executive summary The population dynamics of regional centres and their suburbs remain largely under-researched in Australia. This is despite their important historic, economic and social legacies, as well as their dominance in the urban hierarchy outside the state capital cities. Within Victoria, the largest regional centres are Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo. As regional centres, they provide services for a wide catchment, but at the same time they fall within a Melbourne, and increasingly, national and international catchment. They have experienced significant demographic change over the period 1981-2006, trends which are driven by a synergy of economic and social factors. They have diversifying economic bases and increasingly well qualified workforces that are required by modern businesses for the efficient delivery of region wide services. Their range of cultural and entertainment opportunities is growing. Their links with Melbourne and the global economy are facilitated by improvements to transport and communications infrastructure. They are achieving the economies and advantages of scale that augur well for their future. Planning and managing Melbourne's growth increasingly requires a wider regional perspective. As a successful modern city, Melbourne is under intense pressure from the forces of urbanisation which attract people and businesses to large cities. Improved linkages with Melbourne are drawing these centres more and more into its economic and social catchment. Each of the local councils has undertaken strategic research and planning but rarely have they been put together, compared and had their broader strategic relationship with Melbourne and regional Victoria put under the microscope. This series of papers aims to fill a research gap and improve the understanding of the population dynamics driving change in Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo. The key points arising from this research are: o Strong, but volatile, population growth. This growth has been strongest in the last ten years, but was flat or declining during the early 1990s recession. o The scale of change has been greatest in Geelong, for two main reasons. Firstly, there has been a major change in the industrial base with a move away from the dominance of the manufacturing sector towards services. Secondly, the population of inner Geelong has increased after years of decline, due to redevelopment of key sites, especially along the waterfront. These types of changes have not been evident in Ballarat and Bendigo. o Population growth in towns around the regional centres has not been uniform - it was strong around Geelong, but more localised around Ballarat and Bendigo. The strong growth around Geelong reflects its wider catchment, the growing importance of commuter towns and the 1
sea-change/tree-change phenomenon. These aspects are present, but less obvious around the smaller inland centres. o There has been considerable ageing of the population, as shown by the increase in both the number and proportion of persons aged 75 years and over. Conversely, the proportion of younger persons has declined. The proportion of aged persons has been consistently higher than that recorded in Melbourne. o Despite fluctuating population growth, the number of dwellings recorded consistent growth across the period 1981-2006. This was accompanied by a decline in average household size, a trend mirroring that which is occurring across much of Australia. Separate houses remain the dominant form of dwelling type in these towns, with little growth in medium density housing. o Labour force growth was strongest in the period 1996-2006 as the economy rebounded from the early 1990s recession. Unemployment has been consistently higher than Melbourne's for a combination of reasons such as a narrower economic base and the possible inability of the labour market to absorb in-migration from surrounding regions. o The economies of these towns have moved towards a service based one. Employment growth in retail, health and education has been considerable, but not unexpected given the increase in population. While there has been some growth in knowledge economy industries, it has not matched that occurring in Melbourne. o Geelong has experienced the most significant change in its labour force as a result of the restructuring of the manufacturing sector. Employment in manufacturing has declined significantly in volume and as a proportion of the workforce. Regardless, in terms of output, it is still an important industry. o The shift to a service-based economy has been accompanied by growth in knowledge economy industries. However, as a proportion of employed persons, the level is below that recorded in Melbourne. o There has been an increase in the proportion of persons with university qualifications in line with the demands of the labour market for higher skills, but again, the proportion still lags behind Melbourne. From a spatial perspective, there is a strong relationship between persons employed in knowledge economy industries and the proportion of persons with university qualifications. o The ethnic composition of the population in these towns is very different from that of Melbourne, where overseas born persons comprise about one-quarter of the population. In Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo they are more likely to come from English speaking countries. The proportion of overseas born persons is highest in Geelong, but even in this town the proportion has declined over time. In Ballarat and Bendigo, the proportion of overseas born persons is around 8%. The inbuilt population and economic momentum present in Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo places them in a good position to meet the challenges they will face in the future. The demographic information provided in these papers provides an evidence base for urban planners and policy makers alike. 2
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