Human Settlements Theme Report
Australia State of the Environment Report 2001 (Theme Report)
Lead Author: Professor Peter W. Newton, CSIRO Building, Construction and Engineering, Authors
Published by CSIRO on behalf of the Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2001
ISBN 0 643 06747 7
A nation's population and how it is geographically distributed are key influences on the environment, through the number of people and their patterns of consumption, the rate of growth and household formation, the attractiveness of environments with high amenity value, the relatively low density of settlements, and the scale economies and relative efficiencies of settlements of different sizes with respect to housing, services and infrastructure provision.
The latest accurate data of actual population of places in Australia is the 1996 census; the next census is to be conducted in August 2001. However, the ABS produces annual estimates of population, and has extrapolated the population data to 2011. Post-1996 trends may be different to those evident between the 1991 and 1996 censuses, and we will not know the actual numbers, magnitudes and directions of population shifts until the 2001 census data becomes available in 2002.
It is estimated Australia's population in 2001 is 19.3 million if existing driving forces and attitudes to growth have continued. The nation's pattern of human settlement is characterised by particularly high rates of urbanisation, low-density cities, and the concentration of the population within 50 kilometres of the coast (83%, see Coasts and Oceans theme report), mainly in two crescents: the south-eastern coastal corridor between north of Brisbane and west of Melbourne, and the south-west of Western Australia centred on Perth (Figure 4).
Figure 4: Australia's pattern of human settlement, 2001.
Source: ABS National Health Survey, 1995 (unpublished data)
One way of representing the distribution of Australia's population uses the broad classes of settlement shown in Table 3, which is given here to provide consistency with the 1996 State of the Environment Report. From this table it is clearly evident that the majority of Australians live in five large city regions with populations ranging from one million to more than four million people. Between them, the actual metropolitan areas of the capital cities (as determined by the ABS) of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide house 61% of the population, emphasising the high degree of capital city dominance (metropolitan primacy) in Australia. A further 13 smaller cities, each with estimated populations above 80 000, accommodate 14% of the population. A number of these (such as Newcastle, Wollongong, Geelong and Gold Coast) are within what O'Connor and Stimson (1995) refer to as the mega-metro regions, which encompass the capital city metropolitan statistical divisions and those immediately surrounding them - together which form functional metropolitan cores and commuter belts. The bulk of the remaining quarter of Australia's population is also urban, being concentrated in regional cities and towns with populations between 10 000 and 80 000, plus a large number of small rural localities with populations less than 10 000.
|Settlement||Total population 2001A||Share of population (%)||Total population 2011||Share of population (%)||Annual average growth 1991-2001(%)||Projected average annual growth 2001-2011(%)|
(above 1 million)
|11 517 061||60.5||13 001 535||61.6||1.2||1.220|
(80 000 to 1 million)
|2 600 720||13.7||2 914 838||13.8||1.5||1.147|
(25 000 to 80 000)
|1 281 895||6.7||1 348 681||6.4||1.5||0.509|
(10 000 to 25 000)
|1 271 603||6.7||1 337 903||6.3||0.6||0.510|
(less than 10 000)
|1 825 789||9.6||1 936 494||9.2||0.6||0.590|
|225 004||1.2||251 048||1.2||0.6||1.101|
|Other remoteC||328 779||1.7||328 745||1.6||-0.1||-0.001|
|AustraliaD||19 297100||100.00||21 017 300||100.00||1.14||0.858|
A Data for 2001 and 2011 is based on ABS projections.
BIncludes Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide.
C Classification follows Department of Primary Industry and Energy (DPIE 1994). This rural, remote and metropolitan areas (RRMA) classification is widely used by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare in its environmental health reporting. Metropolitan = big cities plus other cities; rural = large, small and other regional/rural. Other classifications are emerging (e.g. Hugo 2000, Garnaut et al. 2001 p.1), but were not available for this report.
DTotals for Australia are based on a different methodology and reference (ABS 1998a) so are not the sum of the above figures
Sources: ABS (1996, 2000a).
There are also a large number of small remote settlements; although accounting for a very small proportion of the population, these settlements are widely distributed. Remote mining towns (discussed in detail in SoE 1996) are unlikely to be sources of settlement growth within the timeframe of this report unless tourism or other economic functions emerge in their vicinity. 'Fly-in fly-out' populations will probably service the exploitation of major new mineral reserves in Australia's outback.
The scale and pattern of human settlement is expected to change very little in the medium-term. Population projections to the year 2011 indicate that the five largest metropolitan cities will house approximately 13 million people, or 61.6% of Australia's population. This will represent an increased share of the nation's population. As with current patterns, these projections place the bulk of the remainder of the population in the other large cities (13.8%), the large regional towns (6.4%) and the smaller regional centres (6.3%).
However, this method of representing the distribution of Australia's population by scale of settlement system might not be the best way to do so, and it is suggested that for the next SoE report, experimentation be made with alternative schemes taking account of dimensions such as urbanness-ruralness, accessibility-remoteness, and population density, in addition to population size of human settlements (see the Data Gaps section, as well as recent reports by Hugo (2000) and Garnaut et al. (2001)).
The annual average rate of population growth over the decade 1991 to 2001 has been concentrated in the five big cities (+1.2%), the other cities (+1.5%) and the large regional centres (+1.5%) (Table 1.3). The remaining categories of human settlement accounted for much smaller rates of population growth over this period. Projected growth between 2001 and 2011 reflects the trends in previous decades, with the large metropolitan cities, other cities and large regional cities and towns likely to account for the largest rates of growth. However, these projections suggest the rate of growth over the next decade