During September and October, the Committee for Geelong has held a series of member workshops for its latest project: Future Geelong. This project imagines and seeks to conceptualise Geelong at a population of one million people.

This idea of the Geelong city-region reaching a population of one million is not ‘pie in the sky’.

If we refer to the City of Greater Geelong’s Settlement Strategy – using the ‘aspirational’ population growth rate of 2.5% – Geelong should hit 500,000 in 2047 and one million population in 2075. If we use the Council’s 3% growth rate scenario, we reach 500,000 by 2041 and one million at 2065. These scenarios are still vastly underestimating the scenarios put forward by the Regional Australia Institute back in 2019.

According to the Regional Australia Institute’s report, if Geelong takes a larger percentage of Melbourne’s projected population growth, we will have 1,120,312 people on our doorstops by 2056.

What is clear is that Geelong is uniquely placed and in an excellent position to continue to grow at accelerated rates by capturing growth from Melbourne.  This growth presents challenges for our community and needs an intelligent, ambitious, and action-oriented approach to strategy.

The Committee for Geelong’s Future Geelong: Geelong @ 1 Million project aims to collate research, policy and ideas to be bold and brave about our future. It will aim to progress discussions with government regarding the long-term strategic planning needs for our region.

Just last month the Regional Australia Institute launched its ‘Rebalance the Nation’ report – Regionalisation Ambition 2032: A Framework to Rebalance the Nation.

There are many strong initiatives in this report and at the heart is the role of major regional cities like Geelong and our Gateway Cities colleagues in Newcastle and Wollongong.

Geelong is not just Victoria’s second largest city but the capital for the Western District with needs and ambitions not unlike a metropolitan capital.  

Currently regional, rural and remote Australia is home to over 9.5 million Australians with projections to increase to just under 10.5 million by 2032.

Followers of the work of the Committee for Geelong will know our commitment to policy reform in regional population planning. Over the years we have seen the economic and social benefit of policies to decentralise government agencies such as the TAC and WorkSafe. This policy was one of the key elements in Geelong’s recent economic resilience in the face of the loss of heavy manufacturing jobs ten years ago. (Resilient Geelong, Committee for Geelong, 2020). These and other initiatives have resulted in strong population growth for our region with Geelong now one of the fastest growing cities in the country.

According to the Regional Australia Institute, the Australian economy is forecasted to be better off if the nation sees more balanced population growth outside of the metropolitan capitals.

“Modelling undertaken … by the National Institute of Economic and Industry Research shows that Australia’s GDP in 2032 would be $13.8 billion larger under a scenario of a larger regional population than a ‘business as usual’ population scenario.

“More balanced growth benefits both regional and metropolitan people. The modelling showed that under the scenario of a larger regional population in 2032, Gross Regional Product per capita in metropolitan areas is estimated to be $1,800 higher than a business as usual population scenario. For regional cities it’s estimated to be $400 higher. The increases in output and productivity come from economic gains that are available in Australian regional cities compared with the state capitals.”

This piece of economic evidence is compelling and enlivens the discussion at the Committee for Geelong and the Gateway Cities Alliance regarding the need for a National Population Plan.

For local business this provides immense opportunity. Investors are looking to increase their spend in Geelong and our local commercial and retail sectors should be the beneficiaries. But we need to plan and design the city we want – one that we can be proud of.

A key focus area for the Committee for Geelong will be on our city’s central district and supporting and informing work to encourage strategic investment and generate greater activity, higher residential living, and vibrant nightlife. We want our CBD to be a place of work, entertainment, and great experiences.

So, let’s be bold and design the future we want. Geelong at one million may not be as far away as we think.

Jennifer Cromarty

CEO, Committee for Geelong

Image: Tract