Perth 2031 Review Part 1: Certain Growth

Hopefully the Aussies will not play down a population target as a "projection" or a "planning parameter" like our authorities did in Singapore. Our PM Lee famously declared that his government did not have 20/20 foresight for the last 10 years and apologised to Singaporean during his rally in the last GE. Sadly, it seems like the PM is not going to do something to improve it.

"Nobody knows what's going to happen in 2030. Even in 2020, you cannot be sure... Therefore we cannot decide on a population trajectory beyond 2020."
- Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, 9 Feb 2013
I say, that must be one rare leader telling his country that his government  was unable to decide on a population trajectory that was only 7 years away. That was shocking. Every country or state government hires a group of urban planners who will draw out a mid term plan, normally known as a masterplan. In Singapore, the statutory board formed to take up the task is known as the URA. Population forecasts play a pivotal role in understanding future challenges. Thus a population target, is in fact, one of the key factors that shapes masterplan because it helps decide how land in the country should be used in 10, 15 years time. 

How otherwise for instance, can URA provide a figure for the HDB to strategise how many flats to build a year or which roads should the LTA widen if the government cannot decide on a population target? Why are we planning to deforest a large land mass in Tengah and East Seletar to be zoned as residential land [link] if we are not planning for a population surge? Was the PM confused, clueless or patronizing Singaporeans? That's the least of my concern now. Obviously, the same goes for the majority of Singaporeans who voted in the leader that we deserved.

Let me focus my energies to what really counts, the WA masterplan, focusing particularly on the Perth metropolitan area. For if the Aussie urban planners here is worth their salt, they will be following the masterplan the manner it is meant to be instead of flipping prata whenever the occasion calls for it. The masterplan can be my crystal ball to tell me if my commute to work is going to be as fucked up as driving along the AYE (or any other expressways in fact) to work. It will better help me decide if there is still a future for me in Perth and if so, where should I position myself.

First things first,

"A longstanding role for the WAPC has been the forecasting of population changes across the state. WA Tomorrow provides projections for growth until 2031, which historically indicate an average annual growth rate of 1.5 per cent. WA Tomorrow forecasts that Perth and Peel will grow from the current population of 1.65 million to more than 2.2 million. In order to accommodate this level of growth it is estimated that we will need another 328,000 houses and 353,000 jobs."
- Forecast of Western Australian Planning Commission (WAPC)

"The ABS publishes a series of population forecasts3 which suggest that the population of Perth and Peel will be between 2.40 million and 2.88 million. This means that we would need between 358,000 and 429,000 additional dwellings." 
- Forecast of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)

There are slight difference between the projections done by different organisations but at least I am getting none of the "therefore we cannot decide" bullshit. It is clear that Perth will experience a stunning population growth. Though 600,000 to 800,000 people over 15 years isn't anything like Singapore's (now unconfirmed) plan to pump a whopping 1.6 million more people in our tiny island, we have to take into consideration that that figure represents an almost 50% increase in Perth's population. If we translate that to Singapore's figures, the population target will be 7.95 million! For the previous masterplan, Perth actually came short to their population target then by 50,000 people. That was not too much of a shortfall for a state of WA's size. If the track record has anything to show for, Perth will be experiencing a tremendous growth in years to come.

Are there any trackers we can pick up for the implementation of the masterplan? By the number of cars I come across on the highways at 5.30am in the morning, it is a staggering difference to my first Summer in 2011. Road works in major highways seem to be in full force. Parts of Mitchell Freeway in 2011, parts of Kwinana Highway in 2012 (still ongoing), a massive development of flyovers at critical junctions of Tomkin Highway began in late 2013 and parts of ROE Highway is going under expansion since late 2014.

When I first came to Perth in 2011, we made a visit to the water City of Mandurah and we took a shortcut through Southern River to Armadale Road that eventually took us to Kwinana Highway which could take us all the way south to Mandurah. I remembered vividly that half of the Southern River suburb was a huge sand mass of cleared space. Further south, the entire Harisdale was flat and Piara Waters was bush land, a non-existent name on the map. In Jenny's old 2007 map of Perth, ROE highway was not even built yet! Soon, we will see new suburb names such as Calleya (between Cockburn and Piara Waters) popping up like mushrooms. It is certain that Perth is earmarked for rapid transformation in the next 20 years.

I moved to Perth for the seemingly unlimited wide open spaces and great road traffic conditions (as compared to Singapore) at almost any time of the day. These will gradually diminishes if Perth is to achieve a population close to the projected figure of ABS in the year 2031. Still, a population of 2.88 million to 3x will be similar to Singapore 20 years ago when life was still.... dare I say, great. So Perth life should be still good for me for the next 15 years. The key is, how should I go about positioning myself through the rapid changes?


  1. Maybe "go about positioning" to live in Darwin? Population projected for NT in 2030 is 310,000 !

  2. Depending on where you are, some of the development can be significant affected by political issues.

    For example a major road development was cancelled by the new state govt and as a result federal funding also stopped as well. Not only the major bypass is lost, which may have allowed outer suburbs to reach the opposite side of Melbourne without the CBD traffic, the work stimulus is gone

    As for Darwin, you should know that some Aussies actually considers property prices as on of the most expensive amongst the state capitals, and that the work is much harder to come by due to smaller population thus poorer mix of skills and business and competition

  3. Maybe by then you'll be tending to a hobby farm somewhere in the country side, no longer having to worry about traffic. ;)

  4. Australia needs the right sort of immigrants to help her shine.