The Qld Plan makes no excuses for being, in the Premier's words "bold, brassy, in your face" with a big vision for Queensland as a strong, sustainable state.
One of the bold visions in this Plan is promoting population growth in Regional Queensland - doubling the population of Regional Queensland over the next 30 years. This is a major shift in both where population growth has focused in the State, and in State policy thinking. Doubling of the population outside South East Queensland, would essentially equate to a population size of three new Gold Coasts.
The draft Plan had identified a vision of 50% of the State's population living outside SEQld. In context, in 1981 just on 60% of the State's population was living in SEQld. By 2013, SEQ housed just over two thirds of the State's population, suggesting that a 50/50 share of the population would be a major shift over the next 30 years. Certainly when setting an agenda to grow, develop and prosper, it is appropriate to set stretch targets, but they need to have a foundation, substance and be achievable. The Final Plan has now identified that such a split would indeed be ambitious and has modified this vision to doubling the population of Regional Qld over the next 30 years.
The State Government released its own population projections earlier this year, anticipating an INCREASE in the share of the population living in SEQld to 69% by 2036, with a growth of some 600,000 persons projected outside of SEQld to 2036. In order to meet the Qld Plan vision of a doubling of the population in Regional Qld over the next 30 years, an additional 1 million people will need to be moving to Regional Queensland in the decade post 2036. These official population projections are based on trends, what has typically happened, and are utilised by both State and local governments in planning for the provision of infrastructure, development, preparation of new planning schemes. Where and when new schools will be built, additional roads, hospital beds, aged care beds etc.
That there is a major divergence between the State's population projections and its vision for the State suggests that there will need to be a major shift in policy thinking at the State level to commit to investment and infrastructure, in targeting and attracting employment opportunities and ensuring our regional places are attractive places to live, work, play and educate.
Commitment from all levels of government and across all policy streams will be critical, at levels of investment that are unprecedented and requiring community and the commercial sector to back regional winners. This is a strategy aimed at growing the economic wealth of regional Queensland, not putting up the full sign in SEQld, but diversifying Qld's economic base, recognising the geographic alignment and opportunities of northern Queensland with Asia and seeking to improve the wealth and wellbeing of regional Queensland.
Doubling the population in Regional Queensland in 30 years?
Ambitious, a stretch, certainly "out-there" but supported by a clear policy direction across all Government can provide confidence to grow our Regions, to create jobs and opportunities in our Regions and to do so sustainably.