Townsville in the ‘metropolitan century’

Over the next 25 years, the population of the North Queensland region is expected to grow to 340,000 people – a remarkable 40 per cent increase. This is the equivalent of adding a city the size of Toowoomba to the region’s existing population. 

This expected population growth will provide Townsville with terrific opportunity over coming years but will also pose significant challenges in terms of infrastructure, employment, housing supply, and productivity.

While the level of growth in Townsville will be substantial, Australia’s big cities will grow at an even faster rate. This is a global trend. Greater urbanisation is expected to continue the economic and social dominance of major cities, in what has been dubbed the ‘metropolitan century’. 

Boosting Townsville’s competitiveness will be the only answer to ensure that the city’s economic growth outstrips its population growth over the next 25 years. The question is ‘how?’

The Property Council recently posed this question to leading global cities expert Professor Greg Clark. Professor Clark’s ‘Creating Great Australian Cities’ report, recently released by the Property Council, has examined the current performance of Australia’s cities, and identified the key elements needed to increase their global competitiveness.  

While the report focuses on the major capital cities in Australia, the findings of the report are just as relevant to Townsville.

The research has identified some key areas that should be a focus for aspirational Australian cities, including driving the innovation economy, developing better partnerships between private sector businesses and compelling public leadership.  

The report also put forward the need to investigate opportunities to link metropolitan areas with nearby neighbours.  At its core, this is about developing better collaboration as opposed to regional parochialism.

Many of the tools that the report recommends, such as the City Deal model, are already being actively employed in Townsville. This places Townsville at a significant advantage over many other comparable Australian cities. 

Delivery on the Townsville City Deal commitments are well underway, while many other cities and regions are still discussing how they should form a City Deal, or coming to grips with what the concept is all about.

It is clear from the research that Australia’s major cities will face significant growth headaches over the coming decades. While infrastructure and land supply headaches may hinder the productivity of these cities, Townsville should be well positioned to leverage its expected population growth to supercharge economic growth.  

With the right policy settings, and a ‘pro-growth’ agenda, Townsville's industry and community leaders can position the city to become a competitive and compelling investment destination. 

The Property Council will look to leverage this research through our advocacy work at local, state and federal level to ensure the region is well positioned as we approach the quarter-time mark in the ‘metropolitan century.’

At our next Townsville lunch, on Friday 31 August, the Property Council will explore the research findings, the transformation of cities and what it all will mean for Townsville and the North Queensland region.