Brisbane is Australia’s third-largest city, and is at the centre of a massive population boom in recent years occurring in the south-eastern corner of the Sunshine State. However, Queensland is unusual among Australian states in that its population is more dispersed, and Brisbane is actually growing more slowly than many other parts of Queensland.
What is the population of Brisbane?
The official population of Greater Brisbane is currently (June 2011) estimated at 2,074,222 by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. This is a preliminary estimate which may be revised after the Census data comes out, but is unlikely to be changed radically.
This is about 9.2% of Australia’s population and 45% of Queensland’s population. So more of Queensland’s population lives outside Brisbane than within it, and among the states and territories, only Tasmania (at 42%) has a lower proportion of its population living in the state capital.
Brisbane is growing quickly, but not as quickly as the nearby coastal areas. In 2010-11 it grew by 34,800 people, or 1.7%, but the average growth rate over 5 years was 2.2%, a little above the Australian average of 1.8%.
However this growth is still fairly modest and doesn’t fit with the popular perception of the sunshine-driven growth of Queensland, and this is because a lot of SE Queensland’s growth is in the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast, to the south and north of Brisbane respectively, which are not generally included as part of the capital’s population.
In the last five years, Gold Coast grew by 2.8% p.a. and Sunshine Coast grew by 2.6% p.a., significantly higher than Brisbane, though in the last year, the figures were 1.8% and 1.6% respectively, closer to the average for the capital.
This distinction has become fairly arbitrary, since there is now almost contiguous urban development between Brisbane and the Gold Coast (which join up around Pimpama), and on the Sunshine Coast side there is about a 30km gap, with a number of small and growing towns in between. Nevertheless, in the new geographic system that the ABS has put in place for 2011, the three centres are still regarded as separate, due to predominantly self-contained labour markets.
The growth of Brisbane compared to the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast shows that a lot of the attraction to SE Queensland is actually to the coast, rather than the capital, and it is a great example of Australia’s love affair with coastal or near-coastal living. However, Brisbane is still where the bulk of the jobs are located and is expected to continue to grow in future.
Where is growth occurring?
Brisbane is a difficult area to analyse by Local Government Area, because it is broken into only a few, very large LGAs, rather than many small ones as other capital cities are. The City of Brisbane was formed in 1925 by the City of Brisbane Act which amalgamated 25 Local Government Areas into one. The City is still the largest LGA in Australia, and recently passed the 1 million population mark. At June 2011 the City of Brisbane’s population stood at 1,079,392.
Many Brisbanites regard the City of Brisbane as the capital – indeed if you’re on the road in the Brisbane area and see a sign pointing to “Brisbane” you know you’re outside the City of Brisbane, while if you see a sign pointing to “City” you are inside the boundary. However the official ABS definition of Greater Brisbane includes the outer suburban LGAs of Logan, Redland, Ipswich and Moreton Bay (formerly 3 LGAs, Caboolture, Pine Rivers and Redcliffe).
As a percentage, the City of Brisbane actually had the lowest population growth over 10 years, of just over 20%. This is because it is mostly built-up and established whereas the rapid outer suburban growth areas are in the other LGAs like Moreton Bay. Nevertheless, the Inner Brisbane sub-district of the City grew by 43% in this time, which is more similar to the growth of the inner areas of other state capitals (but lower than Sydney’s).
And when looked at in absolute numerical terms, the City of Brisbane added more people than any other LGA (not just in Queensland, but in Australia) because of its sheer size.
The highest 10-year growth was outside of Brisbane in the Gold Coast. The fastest growth here is in areas such as Upper Coomera and Robina, which were discussed in my post “Who is moving to the Gold Coast?” last year.
Within Brisbane, the City of Ipswich had the fastest growth. Most of this growth is in Ipswich – East, which includes the rapidly growing new suburb of Springfield Lakes. The City of Ipswich do not currently subscribe to .id’s information tools so we can’t provide a link here for more details.
On the other side of Brisbane, Moreton Bay is also piling on the population, mainly in the Caboolture and Pine Rivers districts, with suburbs such as North Lakes growing from practically nothing to populations in the tens of thousands over the last ten years.
What will Brisbane’s population look like in the future?
So what of the future? .id don’t currently have forecasts for the Brisbane region. However the Queensland Office of Economic and Statistical Research do population projections (based on trendlines). They produce a high, medium and low series, which makes it a little difficult to analyse, however picking the medium series shows the following:
- The Brisbane Statistical Division will grow to approximately 2,908,000 people by 2031, a rise of 40% from 2011.
- The City of Brisbane will add another 186,000 people or 17.2%.
- The largest percentage growth will be in Ipswich, expected to grow by a massive 163%, or 286,000 people in 20 years.
- There will also be considerable growth in Moreton Bay (37%) and Logan (57%).
- Both Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast will continue to grow faster than the Brisbane Statistical Division, with the Gold Coast adding 47%, to reach a population of just under 800,000 by 2031. The Sunshine Coast is expected to grow by 50% to just over 500,000 at that time.
- Combining Brisbane, Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast gives a total population for coastal SE Queensland of about 4.2 million by 2031. This is about the same size as Greater Melbourne now. Note that South East Queensland is often considered to include hinterland and highlands areas such as Toowoomba and the Lockyer Valley, which are not included here. For the record, Toowoomba is likely to have a population of about 240,000 by 2031.
2011 Census data will be released on 21 June 2012. Do check out this space or join us on twitter @dotid if you would like to receive more updates about the Census or information about demographic and economic trends. You may also like to visit us at id.com.au where you can access our demographic resource centre.