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If your daily commute currently includes a long slow trip on the Mitchell or Kwinana freeways to the CBD, it's frightening to think of the impact an extra 2.3 million people would have on that journey.

This however is the challenge facing those planning the future of Perth, with demographers predicting that Perth’s population of 2 million is projected to reach 4.3 million by 2046.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Australian population currently totals 24.9 million people – however Australia was not predicted to reach this milestone for another 30 years. By 2050, the population of Australia is now expected to be 40 million people.

With such a projected population explosion, how will Perth cope with this growth?

Future cities

report by Infrastructure Australia states that in the coming 30 years, Perth, along with Brisbane, will experience fundamental change, with each growing to the size of Melbourne and Sydney today. Perth will surpass Brisbane as Australia's third largest city.

While this will create exciting opportunities for Perth and other cities around the country, it will present everyday Western Australians, politicians and planners with some complex and hard choices.

The Infrastructure Australia report outlines a number of changes that will need to be considered to ensure Perth can cope with this increased population, with a focus on the city growing up instead of further out and with evolving technology locating employment closer to where people live. 

Infrastructure Australia CEO Philip Davies explained the findings of the research and the challenges ahead during a recent speech to launch the report.

“Do we want to continue to live on a quarter acre block and commute hours to work?” he asked.

“Or should we embrace high quality high density living close to public transport and world-class amenities, or locate our employment centres closer to where people live?”

Mr Davies believes the type of city we choose to live in today will have a dramatic impact on our journey to work, congestion on our roads, cost of housing and access to public transport, schools, hospitals and our public parks in the future.

In recent years, there has been a dramatic increase in the amount of public transport. Here in Perth we are already seeing that trend with the pending construction of the Government’s main election promise – Metronet. The challenge will be to get people out of their cars and onto a train or bus.

And even on the roads, the rise of new technology like driverless cars will also change the face of our city. Experts point out that driverless cars will mean the ability to pack more cars into the same area of road. That’s simply because these cars will have technology that will actually make tail-gating the way we drive with high tech capability to synchronise traffic to the point where back end crashes could virtually be eliminated.

Housing of the future

One of the biggest repercussions of this population growth for Perth, apart from transport, is the impact on housing.

According to Australia’s small area population, areas on the edge of the metropolitan region will have a population boom by 2036 as more and more councils re-zone land to allow owners to sub-divide.

We are already seeing in Perth the move towards packing more homes into smaller spaces. You can see this as you drive around many of Perth’s outer suburbs, with block sizes halved compared to even 10 years ago.

Closer to the city we see a relatively new phenomena in Perth, more and more apartment living. We’re also seeing more older homes being knocked down and the block subdivided so that two homes or even three or four can be built.

Forecasters predict that a staggering 400,000 people could be living in Wanneroo by 2041 and growth in Serpentine-Jarrahdale is expected to jump more than 120 percent, escalating from 31,000 people in 2018 to 68,000 by 2036.

As evidenced by the recently announced development plans for apartment living around Belmont Racecourse and the new Optus Stadium, Perth will likely continue to see more and more apartment complexes being built, and the size of blocks in new suburbs shrinking from the old quarter acre block of the 60s down to as little as 300sqm or below.


And finally even the way we do our jobs will change. More and more employees are likely to be encouraged to use technology to work from home. We see this already but it just makes sense to employees and employers that, rather than spending two hours a day stuck in traffic, we will be able to achieve the same job without necessarily being in the same place.

Oh yes – and one more thing. These are predictions based on what we know. Even five years ago who would have even imagined a world with Uber? Now we’re heading for a time when your Friday night pizza will come via a drone. And, to a large extent, there will be plenty of things that haven’t even been invented yet that will make living in a city like Perth look very different to what we see and experience today.