Growing services for growing populations - Presidentís comment

Article image - Growing services for growing populations - Presidentís comment ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr

As Australia’s population nudges towards 25 million all governments are tackling the infrastructure and services challenges that come with a growing population.

Canberra is currently a city of around 413,000 people and we’re planning for 500,000 people to call Canberra home by 2030.

Long-term decision making is essential in planning for a larger city, council or jurisdiction and it takes significant political will.

While some people find change confronting, it’s better to shape change than let change shape you.

In the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), we recognise that Canberrans want high quality, reliable and value-for-money services. Delivering key urban services is essential for a growing city like Canberra.

As Canberra grows, our services need to expand and we need to be more innovative in service delivery. The ACT’s role as the only State-level government providing local government services means we can be innovative in procurement and service delivery.

So we’re building more health services like walk-in centres that provide nurse-led treatment for minor illnesses and injuries, removing the pressure from emergency departments.

We’re building more new schools in our growth areas, and we’re investing in a significant public transport overhaul – including light rail – which will make our growing city more efficient and easier to live in.

We’re also leading Australia’s transition to a cleaner economy, with the ACT to be powered 100 percent by renewable energy in 2020.
But it’s important that governments fund and support growth in social and community services to meet the growing demand.

Whether there are localised decisions to enable better housing choices, or more community facilities, social services will be the backbone of a growing Australia.

Growing the range of services can be financially tough for small councils and jurisdictions, so innovation is essential. In the ACT, we’re reforming our tax system to abolish stamp duty and move to a land-based tax system. This is ensuring a fairer tax system, and a sustained revenue base for our economy.

Local government needs to get to tackle population growth head on and take the tough decisions now.

In a recent speech, I questioned what the alternative is, and whether the fear of upsetting someone is stifling progressive Australian cities.

I believe that none of us in state and local governments are here to mind the shop – we’re here to embrace the opportunities that come from population growth and shape change.

A bigger population created many challenges for local government but, with the right thinking, will create significant opportunities.