Yesterday I looked at the carbon reduction justification for high speed rail between Sydney and Melbourne. Today I want to discuss another argument – that high speed rail will promote the development of regional centres. It is argued that this could in turn relieve capital cities of much of the burden of projected population growth.
I have no doubt that improving connection times between regional centres like Albury-Wodonga and Melbourne will benefit both.
But if regional centres are to be a serious alternative for growth, they will need to provide new arrivals with jobs. The question I ask is: where are those jobs going to come from?
One way could be that regional centres provide a “dormitory” for workers who can live in the country but commute to work in capital cities like Melbourne by high speed rail. Read the rest of this entry »
Just why people would move to regional centres on a scale sufficient to ease the demands on Melbourne significantly is not clear, as there’s little in the announcement to suggest the Government has suddenly discovered the secret to growing jobs in the regions.
The track record of policy-driven migration in Australia is poor. The decentralisation schemes of the seventies, based on growing regional centres like Albury-Wodonga and Bathurst-Orange, were conspicuously unsuccessful in lowering growth in the major capital cities.
Decentralisation was supposed to be driven by manufacturing, which at that time was on the march out of the inner city. However rather than moving to regional centres, manufacturing largely moved to the suburbs and offshore. It now offers even less potential for underpinning decentralisation that it did 30 or 40 years ago.
I think the practical impact of Ready for Tomorrow is more likely to lie in enhancing the liveability of the regions than in giving respite to Melbourne. It is really a regional development program. As The Age’s editorial writer points out, even if the annual growth rates of the eight largest regional cities were to double, it would only relieve Melbourne of seven weeks growth.
Nevertheless, I suppose the prospect of cheaper housing and lower congestion in reasonable proximity to Melbourne may be sufficient to attract some new settlers to regional centres, especially if it is hyped as the sensible thing to do by the Government and regional councils. Read the rest of this entry »