Population growth concerns – New York in Melbourne?
The Age has published an article yesterday citing social research data from Ipsos indicating population growth/overpopulation is much more of a concern in Melbourne than it was just 4 years ago.
This attitudinal dataset is fascinating. We recently published a blog asking whether you are interested in having access to this data at a local level in our online tools. There are many aspects to livability, and the Ipsos studies show, on an annual basis, changes in attitudes and concerns among the population.
The Age article shows that concern about overpopulation has risen among people in Greater Melbourne, from 7% in 2014, to 20% in June 2018 – a very large increase.
This is interesting because it happens to coincide with the years in which Victoria has become the fastest growing state in Australia. Before 2014 you had to go back to 1942 to find the last time Victoria was the fastest growing state, and prior to that, to the Marvelous Melbourne era of the 1880s!
As you can see, Victoria has added 456,000 people to the population in the 3.25 years to September 2017 (latest data available), nearly 100,000 more than any other state.
365,000 people in 3 years have been added to Greater Melbourne’s population, or 87% of Victoria’s population growth. From this, we can see a direct link between population growth, and people’s concern about that trend.
Though only ranking 6th in order of concern, behind things like crime, housing and healthcare (notably housing, in particular, is related to population growth too), it has risen to be quite important in a short few years.
The differential in population growth between Melbourne and the rest of the state also explains why it is of lesser importance in Regional Victoria, where only 6% ranked it as important.
This is a great example of how opinion data and population data can interact, and the reason we are asking for feedback on including this info on our sites.
A small quibble about geography
With Melbourne’s population almost reaching 5 million already, it is easy to draw comparisons with larger cities overseas. However, The Age article makes a comparison with New York City which is perhaps a little less useful.
It says “Home to 19,500 residents per square kilometre, according to the latest Census, the city has reached a level of density greater than New York City”.
While this is technically true, it’s not comparing the same things. The statement refers to the density of the CBD of Melbourne, an area bounded by the Hoddle Grid, which has no significant parkland areas. And it’s comparing to the whole of New York City, which according to Wikipedia has a density of 10,947 people per square km. But that’s not really a fair comparison – you’re comparing a central city area with a much wider region including some quite low-density areas.
If we were to compare the Melbourne CBD to just Manhattan, well it’s still lower – Manhattan is over 27,000 people/square km (and that includes Central Park). Even if we expanded from the CBD to look at the density of the whole City of Melbourne, which includes parkland and industrial areas, our density goes down to about 5,000 people/square km. And if you include the whole metropolitan area (probably not a fair comparison to New York the other way, as the 5 boroughs don’t include the whole metro area), Greater Melbourne’s population density comes down to a measly 500 people per square km.
So while Melbourne population has certainly grown, comparisons like this which don’t compare like areas aren’t all that useful. Melbourne is not at New York levels yet – like everything to do with population, it all depends where you draw the boundaries. Comparing unlike areas to show higher population densities seems to be a common theme. I wrote a similar blog a few years back about a comparison with Hong Kong.
Nevertheless, it’s interesting to see that population growth is now a topic which is on many people’s radars. The Ipsos data provides a fantastic insight into how people are thinking about issues, while the Census data can give you the hard data on the characteristics of population which lead to these lived experiences.
.id is a team of population experts who combine online tools and consulting services to help local governments and organisations decide where and when to locate their facilities and services, to meet the needs of changing populations. Access our local government area information tools here.