Maybe it is just because I am more attuned to it or maybe it is reality – but there seems to have been a significant amount of discussion lately in relation to regional areas and the focus for more people and investment to go to regional areas.

Surprisingly enough, I have an opinion on this.

If we go way back to a population density map from 1911, NSW is smattered with a significant number of small population centres with the population spread amongst many small towns and villages. There were some larger population centres (ignoring Sydney for the moment) such as Broken Hill; Newcastle; Bathurst; Goulburn; Wagga Wagga; Inverell; Cobar; Moree and Coonamble. In 1911, the decision on where to live was driven by where you worked. People lived in regional locations that had employment with farming or mining. There was low life expectancy (if you made it into your mid-fifties you were doing well) and elderly (those who made it into their sixties) lived with their family.

In 1901, Colonel Harry Tarrant began manufacturing on a commercial basis and by 1909 Tarrant was a manufacturer, importer and distributor. The product that he saw a future with was the motor vehicle. He was astute enough to acquire the Ford franchise in 1909 – the same year that Henry Ford began production of his famous T Model.

The car naturally gave people freedom. Car ownership has steadily increased from the beginning of last century to the point where we now have more than 17 million motorised vehicles on the road in Australia. The other development of significance in locational decision making started very small on 2 November 1922. That was the date that Alexander Kennedy became the first commercial passenger on a Qantas scheduled flight. We are now at the point where almost 60 million passengers fly domestically each year in this vast nation.

With the freedom of modern and efficient transport, locational decisions today are made largely based on amenity. Where are the services that I need? Is there appropriate housing, education and health facilities. The place of residence and the place of work are now uncoupled – perhaps not completely but to a much larger extent than in 1911.

When you look at a population density map from today, the number of small and scattered population centres has decreased and larger centralised population centres now exist. Newcastle; Canberra; Wollongong; Coffs Harbour; Wagga Wagga; Port Macquarie and Dubbo top out the population centres. Many locations that were significant at the start of last century are now only miniscule dots on the population landscape. We are expected to live into our eighties and there is an entire industry being created in caring for our elderly.

As we continue to approach a more digital age, with NBN rollout occurring across parts of this nation, more and more we will see that you can do anything from anywhere at anytime. Amenity increasingly will be king.

In Australia we have 23.5 million people over 7.7 million square kilometres. A population density of 3 people per square kilometre.

Which then begs the next question.

Why do we then have two thirds of our population – some 15.6 million people living in our eight state capitals where the population density is 310 people per square kilometre and house prices include options on your first three born children?

The simplest answer is awareness. Many people in our major metropolitan areas are simply unaware of modern, thriving, eclectic cities that we have that are not our State capitals. There is a group (of which Dubbo is a member) called Regional Capitals Australia. There are fifty identified regional capitals. The combined population of these regional capitals is 4.1 million. When you consider the population of Sydney is 4.8 million and Melbourne is 4.4 million, the combined population of these cities is similar to one of these major capitals.

Perhaps the solution to the congestion in our state capitals is not more investment in these capitals. Perhaps the solution is to move people into regional capitals. Part of this solution involves investment from the government in additional infrastructure. Currently the Federal Government spends $3.5 billion per year on infrastructure in the state capitals. The rest of Australia (including regional capitals) has to fight over $200 million. It is demonstrably cheaper to grow in regional areas rather than in the state capitals. The state capitals grew by 289,000 people last year meaning the cost for the Federal Government alone for infrastructure was $12,226 per person. The cost for infrastructure growth across the rest of Australia was only $2,635 per person for the 75,900 people that the population increased by for the rest of the nation. The regional capitals increased by 60,000 and I believe that, by redirecting some of that $3.5 billion towards regional capitals in our nation and increasing awareness of what regional living has to offer, the congestion in our capitals can be reduced and the viability of regional Australia will be increased, with everyone a winner. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Tell me if you think I am dreaming at

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