As a new report from the Regional Australia Institute noted last week, the population of Greater Newcastle is expected to rise from about 575,000 to 850,000 in the coming 40 years, an increase of just 275,000.
At the same time, Sydney's population is likely to grow by another 4.5 million, virtually doubling to an estimated 9.2 million.
The institute's report, titled Regional Population Growth - Are We Ready? stressed that similar trends were in place across the country, with people pouring into the capital cities at ever greater rates, while regional areas, including the Hunter, were experiencing "modest levels of growth", at best.
Yesterday, another government-funded body, Infrastructure Australia, noted in its 2019 Australian Infrastructure Audit that: "Infrastructure in our four largest cities is failing to keep pace with rapid population growth, particularly on the urban fringe."
Regional cities such as Newcastle were "growing as service hubs for their neighbouring regions" and becoming "satellites" for our "largest cities, [where] ageing assets have been put under growing strain, with rising road congestion, crowding on public transport and growing demands on social infrastructure, such as health, education and green space".
Despite such concerns, there appears to be little government interest in moderating the "mega-city" trend, at least as far as Sydney is concerned.
In London on Monday, Premier Gladys Berejiklian signed a memorandum of understanding with the British defence contractor BAE Systems for a "space and research centre" at the Western Sydney International Airport at Badgerys Creek.
The airport is being built with some $5.3 billion of Commonwealth funds, and both the state and federal governments view it as the magnet for a whole new era of development in Western Sydney.
The government expects to see 200,000 jobs created in and around the airport alone: to put such a commitment in context, Newcastle Airport and Williamtown RAAF support about 5500 jobs. Although airport management and the Hunter Business Chamber see the Western Sydney agreement as "complementing" BAE's Williamtown presence, there is a growing sense that Western Sydney is supplanting the Hunter as an industrial hub. It's certainly getting plenty of attention from the state government.
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