Western Sydney will be home to nearly 600,000 fewer people in 2041 than the state government originally projected, with the region’s growth rate slowing drastically because of the pandemic.
In 2019, the New South Wales Department of Planning and Environment released a 20-year population forecast showing that around 4.2 million people will call the region home by 2041. That’s compared to around 2.8 million people today.
However, that growth rate has slowed dramatically, according to a new study by the Western Sydney Leadership Dialogue that compared the Department’s projections to more recent data from planning consultancy .id.
The Dialogue’s projections show that only around 3.6 million people will move into the region by 2041. While that’s still over 800,000 more people in the area than today, it’s also more than half a million fewer than the department had planned for.
The drop is largely due to lower immigration rates and border closures during the pandemic.
Western Sydney Leadership Dialogue executive director Adam Leto told The Fifth Estate the slowing growth rates could be a handbrake on the state’s economy.
“For a long time, Western Sydney’s economy has been predicated on continuing a quite rapid rate of population growth as a driver of its economy. So when things start to slow or drop off on that front, there’s an opportunity now to diversify the economy and look at new ways of fueling its growth,” he said.
“Yes, they’ll always be a place for the services economy and for industries that are reliant on population growth, but I think having a broader approach to some of those growth opportunities will serve Western Sydney in the long run.”
To address the population drop-off, Mr Leto called for continued government infrastructure investments in major job-generating health, education and innovation hubs such as the Western Sydney Aerotropolis, Westmead, Liverpool and Campbelltown.
“To do that, they’re going to need to have the infrastructure support to ensure that they can grow, to provide the job skills and the growth our economy needs over the next 20 years,” he said.
“It’s not just about the transport mix in terms of metro lines and more roads, but looking at active transport connections, and how we can start building these hubs close to where people are going to be residing.”
Additionally, Mr Leto said the federal government should aim to return to pre-covid immigration levels by 2023, and invest in developing skills through universities and TAFE.
“We’re hopeful that immigration levels will return to pre COVID levels sooner rather than later. But, obviously, there has been some impact in the past two years, which will have a sort of flow-on effect for population growth in the region. We just hope that it’s not too long lasting.”