Opinion

Time for a population policy

By Shepparton News

Earlier this week, Australia’s population ticked over the 25million mark.

Our nation appears to have reached this milestone far quicker than it was expected to 20 years ago, with the mark at that point predicted not to have been reached for a few more decades yet.

That it has done so is thought to have been influenced by a number of factors, and, understandably, this has prompted timely discussion about population, with some renewing calls for a defined population policy.

So where does Shepparton fit into this? For one, a city like Shepparton doesn’t feel quite the level of congestion or housing pressures of Sydney or Melbourne.

While the city’s population is growing, it is far from growing at an unsustainable rate.

On the contrary, a solid argument can be made that a growing city like Shepparton should be trying to attract residents more than ever.

Not far from the city, Strathbogie Shire has been making efforts to entice people to set up shop there, flagging a ‘‘rates holiday’’ as an incentive.

And while discussions about population policy wage at both the federal and state levels, regional cities like Shepparton can certainly pose a solution to the population growth concerns of cities like Melbourne.

Creating incentives, and establishing the possibility for people to relocate or settle in the Goulburn Valley, would require a hefty level of investment, with infrastructure clearly needed in line with any significant population increase.

The 25million population milestone has also prompted the renewed discussion about high-speed rail; a massive, nation-building project which has been on the drawing board for a number of decades.

Shepparton has also been part of this discussion, having been flagged as an early stop on a Melbourne-Sydney-Brisbane proposal in the works. While any proposal here, while alive, is far off in the distance, the possibilities were Shepparton to be included on any high-speed rail route are many, varied and significant.

While offering a viable inter-city rail alternative to air travel, the proposal would also serve to develop cities — like Shepparton — along any endorsed corridor, and make significant inroads towards decentralising Australia’s population.

The call for a national population policy to plan and guide the way Australia is growing via a rock-solid framework is arguably more needed now than ever.