Sydney, population growth – and the rise of “mega-councils” (part 5 – conclusions)

In the first four posts in this series I looked at the distribution of Sydney’s forecast population growth across local government areas and in particular the projected increase in the number of councils with populations over 200,000, from two in 2006 to 14 by 2036. I also looked at the characteristics of councils which are forecast to experience above-average population growth rates or above-average increases in population numbers.

I noted that of the “200,000 plus” councils, all but Sydney City Council are in outer-ring suburbs and that nine of the 14 are located in Greater Western Sydney. The GWS region is expected to grow by over a million people or over 58%, significantly higher than the projected metropolitan growth rate of just under 38%, resulting in GWS having over 40% of the total metropolitan area population by 2036.

There was a strong correlation between the so-called mega-councils and those which are forecast to experience above-average growth, either in terms of rates of increase or total numbers. This perspective reinforced the pattern of Sydney’s growth as occurring most strongly in an arc running from the Hunter through most of Greater Western Sydney and tapering off into the Illawarra, with smaller concentrations of growth around Sydney city and parts of the inner west.

There are some interesting conclusions to be drawn from this, some of which I’ll look at under the broad headings of demographics, infrastructure and governance:


  • Managing Sydney’s growth will always be an issue, irrespective of population policy or overall levels of migration. Whatever policies are adopted in the future, Sydney’s pattern of growth is likely to continue to be highly differentiated between high-growth and low-growth areas.
  • Under almost any scenario, Greater Western Sydney (GWS) will experience by far the greatest bulk of this anticipated growth, reflecting lifestyle choices, competitive (though not cheap) housing costs and natural increase.


  • The outer suburban areas likely to experience growth, particularly in GWS, are those which already suffer from marked under-investment in infrastructure, particularly transport and to a lesser extent in health, education and cultural infrastructure.
  • If existing and proposed suburbs in these areas are to continue to accommodate rates of growth significantly higher than the metropolitan average,  then they will need comprehensive planning and early investment in infrastructure to avoid both new bottlenecks and compounding the mistakes of the past.
  • Just as they are unlikely to reduce significantly overall  rates of growth, changes in population policy are unlikely to affect the demand for new infrastructure to support transport, education, health, employment social and cultural opportunities in these communities.


  •  Sydney’s forecast growth and the highly differentiated nature of this growth will pose particular challenges for Sydney’s future urban management
  • The growth of Sydney’s outer suburbs in particular will pose significant challenges in terms of resource allocation as well as in attempts to provide additional employment in these areas. This growth is also going to continue to put strain on the environment of these areas, particularly those suburbs at the urban-rural interface.
  •  There are likely to be further challenges resulting from the complexities of governance in a city with 53 councils estimated to range in population size by 2036 from under 20,000 to over 480,000.
  • The 14 potential “mega councils” (those estimated to be over 200,000 in population by 2036) will experience particular problems because of their high growth but are also likely to have greater capacity to deal with some of these issues.
  • It is clear that meeting Sydney’s infrastructure demands will have to involve the Federal Government as well as the State Government and councils. It is also likely to require a review of Sydney’s current governance structures.
This entry was posted in Governance, Growth, Infrastructure, Local Government, Planning, Population, Statistics, Sydney metro area, Western Sydney and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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