Sydney’s population in 2011 – growth and change in the last five years

Sydney’s population in 2011 – growth and change in the last five years

In late July, the ABS released what we demographers call the rebased population estimates (new Estimated Resident Population – ERP), including revisions of the annual estimates back to 2007. This data can be found in the publication Regional Population Growth (ABS Cat. no. 3218.0). Remember the 2011 population estimates released back in March? Well you may have heard that we’ve had some Census data released since then, the results of which mean that those estimates been superceded because of this rebasing process. And because the ABS overestimated the NSW population by over 90,000, they effectively had to make some pretty major adjustments. But though the numbers have changed, it hasn’t necessarily changed the overall trends and spatial patterns. Let’s have a closer look at what’s going on in Sydney.


Sydney is Australia’s largest city

In 2011, Sydney’s population was 4.6 million, an increase of 55,790 on 2010 and 323,930 on 2006 (as measured by the Greater Capital City Statistical Area). This represents a growth rate of 1.2% on the 2010 figure (also rebased) and 1.5% per annum on average since 2006.

The volume of growth in Sydney was the second highest of all State capitals over the period 2006-2011, but interestingly the average per annum figure was only the sixth highest, but still well ahead of Adelaide and Hobart, and equal to the Australian figure. Though much has been made of Melbourne’s rapid growth and some have pondered the possibility that its population will overtake Sydney’s, it remains a fact that Sydney is still the largest city in Australia and is likely to be so for some time.

Which LGAs recorded rapid growth?

We’ve written a few blogs about Sydney’s growth (see here and here), and one of the defining characteristics is that there are no individual Local Government Areas (LGA) with massive growth rates (as there are Melbourne and Perth), and strong growth is not confined to the urban fringe. The table below shows the top 10 LGAs for volume and rate of growth between 2006 and 2011.

Rank LGA Name Population 2011 LGA Name Growth (no.) 2006-2011 LGA Name Annual average growth (%) 2006-2011
1 Blacktown 312,479 Blacktown 31,867 Canada Bay 3.1
2 Sutherland Shire 219,751 Parramatta 20,663 Auburn 2.8
3 Fairfield 196,622 Sydney 17,898 Camden 2.8
4 Bankstown 190,637 Liverpool 17,168 Parramatta 2.6
5 Liverpool 188,083 Bankstown 13,780 Blacktown 2.2
6 Penrith 184,681 The Hills Shire 11,843 Holroyd 2.2
7 Sydney 183,494 Randwick 11,649 Strathfield 2.2
8 The Hills Shire 176,986 Wyong 11,306 Sydney 2.1
9 Parramatta 174,554 Canada Bay 11,180 Botany Bay 2.0
10 Hornsby 163,865 Holroyd 10,546 Liverpool 1.9

Source: ABS, Regional Population Growth (Cat. no. 3218.0)

The LGAs with the highest growth rates were located in the established middle western areas of Sydney and are influenced by large scale redevelopment of former industrial sites. Canada Bay’s growth of 3.1% per annum is almost solely due to the redevelopment of Rhodes Point and the large number of apartments that have been built. This of course is an ongoing process so the strong growth rates are likely to continue as the demand for living in this part of Sydney is strong given its waterside location and access to employment. It’s a similar story in number two ranked Auburn which contains new developments at Wentworth Point. Both these LGAs are also in close proximity to Parramatta which is of course a major employment and commercial hub in the Sydney metropolitan area.

This trend towards greater consolidation in Sydney means that greenfield growth, while still important, does not influence overall growth in the same way as other Australian cities. Only Camden (rank 3), Blacktown (rank 5) and Liverpool (rank 10) have examples of greenfield growth within their boundaries.

The volume of growth tells a slightly different story. While the top ten includes inner and established LGAs, the City of Blacktown added almost 32,000 people between 2006 and 2011 to reach a population of 312,480. Much of this growth was located in greenfield estates and suggests that despite the high level of consolidation, the Sydney metropolitan area is still expanding outwards. Growth in Liverpool, The Hills Shire and Wyong is also part of this trend.

What are the slowest growing LGAs?

There were no LGAs in Sydney that recorded population loss between 2006 and 2011. The lowest rate and volume of growth was recorded in the small municipality of Hunters Hill, located on the lower north shore (134 persons, 0.2% per annum). Campbelltown, located on the south western outskirts, recorded slightly more modest growth (3,781 persons, 0.5% per annum). Though Sutherland Shire and the City of Penrith grew by more than 7,000 persons, their large size meant that the growth rate recorded was quite modest (0.7% and 0.8% respectively).

Where are those missing 90,000 people?

In compiling these estimates, the ABS has had to consider more recent information made available through the release of the 2011 Census. This includes consideration of the Census undercount (higher in Sydney compared to regional NSW) as well as their overestimation of the population – almost 91,000 people in NSW. The upshot of this is that the rebased ERPs for 2011 are likely to be noticeably lower than the figures released in March. So the 90,000 people aren’t missing, they weren’t really there in the first place. More information about the rebasing process can be found here and we also plan to talk about this issue in future blogs.

To access detailed population figures for Australia, Capital Cities, States, Local Government Areas and suburbs, visit .id’s demographic resource centre.

.id the population experts



Simone - Myth Buster

Simone has a rich background in human geography, demography and urban planning – a background that was useful in her previous roles in the Commonwealth and State Governments, and now as part of the forecast team at .id. From the Queensland coast to the southern suburbs of Perth, Simone produces population and dwelling forecasts that help local governments make informed decisions about future service and planning needs. She is a regular contributor to .id’s blog and has spoken at several conferences on how our cities and regions are changing. She is a big advocate of evidence-based planning and how Census and other data can inform this. Outside of work Simone is a keen traveller and photographer – interests that tie in well with her professional life and help her to understand “place”.

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