Councils will ‘bear brunt’ of generational change

Ageing population
The ageing population will place a strain on local government. Image: iStock.

By Rob O’Brien

Local governments are facing a decade of strain on their services thanks to a two-pronged attack by huge population growth and an ageing nation, leading KPMG demographer Bernard Salt has warned.

Addressing the Local Government Managers Australia (LGMA) conference in Darwin, Salt said the impact of population growth on local government areas would be exacerbated as the Baby Boomer generation left the workforce.

The hardest hit would be traditional seachange destinations on the eastern seaboard, such as the Gold Coast, which face rising populations and an increase in retirees, he told Government News.

“This translates into the demand for housing services and infrastructure that must be delivered on the ground into key high-growth municipalities – places like Wyndham and Melton in Melbourne, Blacktown in Sydney, the Gold Coast and Moreton [Bay] in Brisbane.”

Australia’s population is growing at a record rate of 354,000 people a year. According to recent figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) booming local government areas include Wyndham in Victoria, increasing by 8900 in the 12 months to June 30, 2008, and Wanneroo in Western Australia and Blacktown in NSW, increasing by 8600 and 5300 respectively.

ABS figures showed that in smaller states and territories, the largest growth was in outer-suburban local government areas such as Salisbury in South Australia (2400), Palmerston in the Northern Territory (1500) and Kingborough in Tasmania (630).

“It’s the leading edge of population growth: these key municipalities, at the coalface of development, will have to provide these services,” Salt said.

“This is not really going to slow up, as Australia needs to import workers at a rapid rate to offset the number of Baby Boomers exiting the workforce.

"This is going to drive high levels of population growth and therefore heightened demand for service provision in local council areas … certainly for another 10 years.”

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