Population boom as region turns 15

Published 5:00am 13 March 2023

Population boom as region turns 15
Words by Kylie Knight

Half a million people now call the Moreton Bay Region home. It’s a milestone which adds weight to the Council’s push for city status – the outcome of which is expected in the coming weeks - and comes as the region celebrates its 15th birthday on March 15.

Population growth continues to exceed expectations, hitting the 500,000 residents mark mid-2022 - a year earlier than expected, according to most of the state’s population plans.

A Council spokesman says, based on current growth trends, the region’s population will overtake Tasmania by 2031. This will be a decade sooner than expected.

The growth is being driven by affordability and lifestyle factors, according to Moreton Bay Regional Council Mayor Peter Flannery.

Mayor Flannery says this growth means previous population forecasts will need to be revised up, with Moreton Bay Region poised to easily surpass the previous estimate of 690,000 residents by 2041.

|“We know people are attracted to our region for the affordability and they stay for the liveability, so the single greatest challenge we face as a Council is retaining our liveability and affordability in the face of the population growth we’re seeing,” he says.|

It comes as the council eagerly awaits the outcome of an Electoral Commission of Queensland report into its bid to become a city, which is expected to be handed to Local Government Minister and State Member for Murrumba Steven Miles in April.

The bid is part of Council’s plan to take the region to the next level, maximising opportunities for economic and infrastructure investment.

Population boom as region turns 15
Moreton Bay Regional Council Mayor Peter Flannery

‘We’ve woken up’

Mayor Flannery says the Moreton Bay Region isn’t the sleeping giant of South East Queensland anymore.

“We’ve woken up,” he says.

“I am hopeful that our request to be classified as a city will be granted soon, which will also help us with funding and better articulate our plan to be a city unlike any other - a polycentric city.

“Having recently visited places like Vancouver and Los Angeles, I think it’s clear that the traditional CBD model has failed and infrastructure can’t cope with cars heading in the same direction at the same time every day.

“By investing in mini-CBDs, rather than one central location, Moreton Bay City will be something completely different.

“I hope that means that 15 years from now, while our skyline might look different, our lifestyle will still be the same: laid back, affordable, and with plenty of jobs close to home.

“That’s certainly my ambition on this 15th anniversary.”

Population boom as region turns 15

Looking to the future

Mayor Flannery says this milestone is about looking forward, not back.

|“I have to confess that I was an anti-amalgamation campaigner, but 15 years later I have to conceded that the results speak for themselves,” he says.|

“There’s no way three small former councils could ever have paid for major infrastructure we take for granted today like the Caboolture Hub or North Lakes Corso or Redcliffe Rail Line.

“We certainly wouldn’t have our own university campus here in Petrie if we hadn’t become Moreton Bay, and that’s what evolution is all about. We’re going to need to evolve again in order to keep pace with population growth and infrastructure investment we need from the state and federal governments.

“I think the only detrimental legacy of amalgamations is people hanging onto the past, which is preventing us realising our full political potential as the third largest council in Australia.

“In fact, we have data showing that the State Government’s planning has grossly underestimated Moreton Bay’s growth, and overestimated growth in areas like the Sunshine Coast, Ipswich and Logan.

“That means funding that should have come our way has been misdirected to councils that don’t need it as much as Moreton Bay across agencies including Transport and Main Roads, education, and health which all rely on population statistics to determine funding needs.”

Population boom as region turns 15

Crystal ball view

Protecting lifestyle appeal:

Last year, Mayor Flannery announced Council’s ‘ambitious goal’ of protecting 75 per cent of the region’s landmass from development during his State of the Region address.

“We need to contain our urban footprint to 25 per cent of our region. By protecting 75 per cent of Moreton Bay from urban development, we’ll ensure we retain important, productive rural areas, greenspace, and habitat for wildlife,” he says.

|“If we do this, not only will we be the green belt between Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast, we will actually become the lungs of South East Queensland.|

“Of course that means limiting new unplanned greenfield housing construction, which means a serious conversation as a community about how we manage growth, and a big part of that is building up, rather than out.”

Managing development:

Mayor Flannery says Council needs to look at sustainable infill development to preserve the region’s lifestyle and environment in the face of surging population growth to deliver on the expectations of locals.

“We (need to) construct new housing around our established centres and stop further urban sprawl,” he says.

“Critically, we need to provide a better range of housing, especially as the Australian life expectancy keeps increasing.”

Economic growth:

Mayor Flannery says that means Moreton Bay City won’t have a single business district but will invest in existing CBDs and the infrastructure that connects them.

“We’ve seen the traditional CBD model fail with infrastructure that can’t keep pace with demand and in a post-COVID world we need to rethink the way we work, commute, and enhance our lifestyle,” he says.

“The blueprint for this plan is already outlined in our Regional Economic Development Strategy 2020-41 which articulates growth strategies for our key priority industries: food and agribusiness, knowledge and innovation, advanced manufacturing, and tourism.

“That means focused agricultural investment in the north, new initiatives to drive innovation and technology uptake at the Petrie Mill site, supporting advanced manufacturing investment in our Brendale industrial precinct, retail opportunities around North Lakes, and developing the eco-tourism potential of our spectacular hinterland.”

Protecting the environment:

Mayor Flannery says Council has continued to up the ante in a bid to manage development while also protecting the environment.

“I’m proud to be able to say Council’s already doing much better now than in the past, not only in terms of environmental protections but also our climate ambitions - we’re aiming for Council’s operations to be carbon neutral by 2039,” he says.

|“Over the past two years alone, the conditions we’ve put on development approvals have preserved 500ha or enough land to cover the Gabba 200 times over.|

“When a developer submits an application to Council, we require them to give something back to the community. Sometimes, that comes in the form of new roads and infrastructure to support the growth they’re creating, but we also require them to give back land for environmental purposes to protect our wildlife, and greenspaces for parks, sports, and other recreational facilities for residents to enjoy.

“For example, we’ve been able to secure 30,000 new trees to be planted by developers over the past two years.”

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