Member for Ripon wants feedback on interim strategy to transfer Melbourne population growth to regions

MEMBER for Ripon Louise Staley has labelled Melbourne’s projected growth rate as unsustainable and called for feedback on the opposition’s policy to increase regional populations.

On Monday, the Coalition released its ‘2050 Looking Forward’ interim report from the party’s Victorian Population Policy Taskforce.

Since last year the taskforce has held community forums in regional areas and received more than 100 submissions.

The interim report called for increased economic opportunities in regional Victoria to create a viable migration alternative to Melbourne, which absorbs 90 per cent of the state’s population growth. 

Ms Staley said the report was not yet at the stage where it would target specific areas like Ararat and Stawell.

“What the report is about is how fast Victoria is growing and 90 per cent of the people moving to or being born in Victoria are choosing to live in Melbourne,” she said.

“By 2050, Melbourne would gain an additional 3.8 million people but regional Victoria is in many places shrinking and overall would gain 700,000 people.

“What the report is saying is that this is not where we want to go; we want people to choose to live in regional and country areas; and asks what do we need to do to make this happen?”

Ms Staley said the next stage for the taskforce would be to invite feedback on the interim report and develop specific polices for each regional area to shift some of the growth out from Melbourne.

An SGS Economics map of Victoria's population trends which was used to inform the coalition's new report on regional growth polices. Areas in red saw a decline in the 10 years to 2014.

An SGS Economics map of Victoria's population trends which was used to inform the coalition's new report on regional growth polices. Areas in red saw a decline in the 10 years to 2014.

The interim report is partially based on research by SGS Economics, which identified areas of population growth and decline across Victoria over the 10 years to 2014.

The report found that most of the areas in western Victoria except for Ballarat, Horsham and Warrnambool has experienced population decline.

The state government’s own population forecast, the Victoria in Future report, has predicted population declines in both the Ararat Rural City and Northern Grampians Shire local government areas between now and 2031.

“We want people to respond to this and we hope to have a final report by the end of the year,” Ms Staley said.

The rate of decline will slow over the next 10 years but both areas are projected to lose hundreds of residents.

Ms Staley said those predictions could be making the situation worse.

“I have got to say that the difficulty is that the government identifies the problem but then stops and doesn’t do anything about it.

“We are asking: what do we do about it?”

Ms Staley said she would speak at a Chamber of Commerce summit in Charlton next week.

“That is an area with population decline,” she said.

“People are desperate to hear what policies others can put forward and what we can put forward.

“We just need to move beyond all of this about ‘everyone’s moving to Melbourne’. We live in the country and we know what it has got to offer; more people need to know what it has got to offer.”

The state government used the 2017-18 budget to announce payroll tax cuts for businesses, and offered stamp duty cuts and double first home buyers grants, in regional areas to boost economies outside Melbourne.