Issues Paper on a Sustainable Population Strategy for Australia
Name: Joynes, Karen
Suburb and State: NSW
Date of Submission: 9/2/11
To the Sustainable Population Strategy,
Below is my submission on the Sustainable Population Strategy.
The introduction is followed by an extract from the 2006 State of the Environment Report, my comments on
each of the three panel reports, then my answers to the questions listed in the Issues Paper.
The terms of reference assume a growth in population, which means the “no growth” option is not
countenanced. It should be, for the sake of our environment.
Australia’s immigration has averaged about 100,000 per year from World War Two until 2006. Since then, our
immigration per annum has doubled to trebled, peaking at over 300,000 in 2009. The writers of the Productivity
and Prosperity Advisory Panel seem to think this later level is usual, acceptable and sustainable, purely on
economic grounds, and ignore the fact that our economy operated quite well with a much lower rate of
immigration. We had sufficient food producing farmland near our cities, and less traffic congestion. Houses were
more affordable. Our wildlife was in a less precarious state.
There is also much written about the “ageing baby boomers” while ignoring the fact that our fertility rate has
increased significantly, due in part to the Federal Government’s “baby bonus” as well as the echo of
grandchildren from the post war baby boom.
Perhaps quoting actual figures would be more realistic than using percentages, as keeping the percentage
constant means the actual numbers are still increasing as population grows.
With such high rates of growth, our population is increasing by about a million every two to three years. A million
people (even if temporary) who need to be fed, housed, clothed, educated, employed and given health and
other services. A million more people using scarce resources such as water and energy, producing more
greenhouse emissions, and waste for sewerage and landfill sites, and taking up more SPACE. We cannot keep
up with this pace of growth.
In my 57 years, I have seen a great deal of change to our Australian lifestyle, due largely to population growth.
One obvious example is the conurbation of Sydney/Wollongong/Newcastle with open space and forest lost as a
result, with only national parks separating the three cities.
Other urban areas have spread along the Eastern seaboard. There are now very few true “villages” left as
coastal lifestyles have lured the ever growing population. Places such as Ballina, Lennox Head, Port Macquarie,
Batemans Bay, Ulladulla were small country towns when I was a teenager, with relaxed lifestyles. Now, they are
small versions of Sydney with traffic and people congestion, shopping malls, fast food chains, traffic lights and
all the associated problems of cities. Villages have become towns with consequent loss of lifestyle. Ask any
“local” what their town or village was like when they were young, and they will more than likely say it was better
with fewer people.
(There are now fewer settlements where people can go to enjoy a slower pace of life. A friend in Brisbane
recently related how his work colleagues were discussing holiday locations. They have stopped going to Yamba
as it is "just like the Gold Coast", and prefer places such as Evans Head, Iluka and Arrawarra, which are also
fast losing their appeal due to population and economic growth).
At the same time, huge areas of valuable wetlands have been lost, covered over with fill and built on, with
consequent loss of marine biodiversity. Sylvania Waters in Sydney is just one example. As a result of this
development back in the 1960’s, mangroves which had been used as our first oyster producing area was lost.
Another example is the proposed development of West Yamba, which would see a very large flood storage area
for the Clarence River filled and covered with housing. To accommodate a higher population. The
consequences of less storage area for the flooding river?
Here is a micro-example of the impact of population growth: Many years ago, after a sand mining company had
finished their exploration of a coastal heath area, I used their vehicle access tracks to make a loop walking track
back through a lakeside reserve to my home. A neighbour asked about it, so I showed her. She showed another
neighbour. Soon, there were cigarette butts and tissues left along the track, so I let the vegetation reclaim the
area (which is now national park).
This shows that people have an environmental impact, just by their sheer existence.
We have already lost a lot to population growth, and younger generations and recent migrant arrivals do not
realise this. Australia is lucky by worldwide standards to have a relatively small population which at present is
prosperous. If we continue with the recent rapid population growth, we will lose even more, to the detriment of
our environment, society and economy.
We need a much higher percentage of our land and water protected from development and exploitation.
The Productivity and Prosperity Advisory Panel advocates population growth to increase economic growth, but
does not question the idea that we can continue as normal, with climate change and peak oil two major possible
hindrances to this growth. Economic growth does not mean greater environmental protection, rather the exact
opposite. To quote the Sydney Morning Herald (Weekend Business, Feb.5-6, page 19): "He (Prof. Kevin
Anderson) concludes the emission reductions needed to avoid 2 degrees of warming are simply incompatible
with economic growth".
Economic growth has other more diverse environmental impacts. For example, with a higher disposable
income, people can afford jet skis which have air, noise and water issues; holiday expectations rise which
increase resource use and impacts on natural areas e.g. luxury tents in national parks; higher consumption of
"things' which require resource and energy consumption and creates waste disposal problems; the list can go
For too long, the environment has been ignored as humans have multiplied and exploited natural resources. It is
time this imbalance was corrected, and nature given greater consideration.
Below is an extract from the State of the Environment Report for 2006 which I consider relevant to this
The Sustainable Population Strategy must take into account the 2011report due to be published later this year.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment.
Australia State of the Environment 2006 AT A GLANCE
Many of the pressures from human activity, such as increasing consumption, that were reported
in the 2001 State of the Environment Report still exist, and some have intensified.
It is still not possible to give a comprehensive national picture of the state of Australia's
environment because of the lack of accurate, nationally consistent environmental data. Therefore,
the need for an enduring environmental data system remains a high priority if Australia is to
measure progress and make sound investments in the country's environmental assets.
People are continuing to move to the coast to live, and the cumulative impacts of this trend are
now apparent in some coastal areas. If this trend continues, we risk further damaging the natural
and cultural values and characteristics of the coastal environments that historically have made
coastal living so attractive.
Continued and greater reductions in net individual consumption and waste are required through
significant increases in recycling and reusing critical materials. The latter includes building
material recycling, the capture and use of stormwater, the recycling of wastewater and biological
Fisheries in Commonwealth-managed waters continue to be under pressure but, because of a lack
of data, it is not clear whether fisheries managed by the states and the Northern Territory are
also under pressure.
Improving Australia's environment
We can expect future pressures on the environment from population growth and from economic
growth. These pressures will continue to increase unless there is some decoupling of growth from
the non-sustainable consumption of resources, particularly energy, land, water and products
dependent on limited natural resources (such as forestry and fisheries). This is a major adaptive
Demographic Change and Liveability Panel Report
Executive summary. Page xiii “There will need to be trade-offs and compromises between economic growth and
environmental constraint imperatives”
I would suggest that, to date, the environment has already given way for economic growth and far greater
consideration needs to be given to environmental protection to counteract the damage done from population
and economic growth over the last two hundred years.
Page xiv. The writers appear to operate from growth is good and unavoidable perspective, and do not consider
a steady population level.
If Australia’s population is growing rapidly from migration, this will add to the aging “problem” in the future.
Reasons for level of urbanised, coastal population? The reasons would most probably preclude a more
Page xviii. Cost of “migration-gap”?
Acceptance of migration may not now be as widespread as previous times.
While migrants may be encouraged to settle outside of capital cities, there is no guarantee that these people will
stay in their original settled areas.
Page xx, 7. Social Inclusion. This section points to the many and varied problems which already exist in
Australian society. These problems should be addressed rather than the government encouraging greater
population growth through migration and financial incentives to have large families.
Inadequate housing is often a key feature of social exclusion - this is exacerbated by rapid population growth as
infrastructure building cannot keep pace.
1. Fertility and Families. If maintaining fertility at around or just below replacement level has major long
term advantages, then why do we need such a high level of migration? Does this not negate the
positives of controlling fertility?
page xxiii. Will regional development just create the same problems now experienced in cities i.e. traffic
congestion, water shortages, landfill and sewage disposal, habitat loss?
11. Remote Australia and Population. Investment in infrastructure will not automatically make remote mining
settlements more attractive if the settlements are in extremely hot or remote areas.
12. Infrastructure. I agree that Australia has under invested in infrastructure, but perhaps it is more a case of
population growth being too fast in recent decades for the financing and construction of the infrastructure. Or a
lack of government policy.
page xxiv. 13. Towards Environmental Sustainability.
If Australia is “more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change”, then it makes sense to limit population growth
to make these impacts more manageable.
Page xxv 14. Housing.The housing market is under stress due to the unprecedented migration numbers over
the past decade i.e demand has outstripped supply.
1. Food Security. A large area of food producing land on our cities fringes has already been lost to
residential, commercial and industrial development due to population growth.
Page xxvi 16 Australia’s International Role.
Australia needs to significantly increase aid to our neighbours (and other developing nations) to reduce fertility
and improve health and education of women and children.
Page xxvii Why is there “a necessity for growth”?
The writers emphasise the ageing of our population but recent data indicates record birth rates over the past
decade. This must counteract the perceived costs of ageing baby boomers.
The writers also repeat the need for a policy based on science and discussion amongst the wider community.
At the same time that an ageing population may have implications for the health system, the high birth rate also
may have costly implications for the health and education systems.
The definition of environmental sustainability is anthropocentric, giving no mention of the intrinsic importance of
the natural environment.
Page 5. A “population strategy must not only be for growth” assumes growth will occur with no possibility for a
steady population level.
Page 7. Global Ageing
As the writers have said for population growth, a declining population could create opportunities, not just
problems. Opportunities such true sustainability in a steady state economy.
With the global population nearly trebling in the last 60 years, a decline in the workforce would seem to be a
minor concern for the survival of natural environment i.e. the planet.
Page 8. While fertility rates may have declined, with nearly 7 billion humans on Earth, there seems little chance
total population will decline any time soon.
Page 19 emphasis on workforce and ageing - again - i.e. economic impacts
Chapter 2. page 21
The recent growth rate of Australia’s population has been an issue of considerable public discussion. As Table
2.1 indicates, the population growth rate of 2.2 percent in 2008‐ 09 was almost twice as fast as that of the global
population as a whole as well as being almost 20 percent higher than growth in less developed nations and
more than five times higher than that of high income countries. This represents the fastest annual rate of
population increase since 1960.
Doesn’t this show that Australia is out of step with the rest of the world, a world that is trying to keep population
growth under control?
Page 24. Even if some of the migrants are only temporary, the total number of people in Australia at any one
time has an environmental impact such as water consumption and waste production. They also all need
housing, adding to demand.
Page 26. Perhaps voluntary euthanasia should be allowed for those who do not want to endure chronic illness
and disability. This would relieve the burden of the ageing on the economy.
Page 28. “A small but significant recent increase in fertility from 1.729 in 2001 to 1.956 in 2008”.
This must have implications for reducing the problem of the “ageing” population. This is higher than other OECD
nations and some Asian nations.
Concern with ageing and shrinking work force - but it is just the growth rate which is shrinking, is it not? The
total number are still at replacement level or higher?
Page 31. How do demographers know the baby bonus has had “little, if any, impact on increasing fertility”?
Anecdotally, preschoolers are now known as “the plasma generation” as new parents commonly used the baby
bonus to purchase a plasma television.
Page 32. also estimated that in mid 2009 there were 918,647 persons temporarily present in Australia,
equivalent to 4.1 percent of the resident population. They are thus a large and economically important group.
What are the social and environmental costs of this large group of temporary migrants?
Page 40. Hence, the numbers entering the workforce ages will decline over the next decade or so before the
recent increase in fertility will see the numbers begin to increase again.
i.e. the argument for increased immigration to overcome the ageing population is invalid or at least transitory.
Table 2.9 shows that currently 87 percent of the national population live in urban centres (clusters of more than
1,000 people), 63.7 percent live in the capital cities and more than four out of five live within 50 km of the
The reasons for this should be noted as any increase in population will follow the same spatial distribution and
add the the problems of congestion, habitat destruction etc.
Page 55. Clearly with greater mobility the actual spatial distribution of the population in Australia will vary
considerably from the usually resident population in particular areas. An understanding of this is important for
assessing population impacts and provision of infrastructure and services.
This is especially true for tourism areas which come under great pressure at peak holiday seasons, causing
degradation of the natural environment and loss of social and cultural amenity for residents.
Page 61. Recognition that migrants also age is pleasing.
Page 62. Important that Australian residents should be employed rather than relying on immigration.
3.3 Emerging Issue No. 2 Children and Young People.
This relates strongly to the government policies encouraging population growth such as the baby bonus. Child
poverty, low education levels and low Socio Economic Status are closely related. The more children a family
has, the more costly it is to raise them.
Have demographers carried out any studies to indicate the number of children in low socio economic families?
There should be a limit to the number of children for which all parents are eligible for government payment.
Page 68. The slower the population growth rate, the more likely it will be that sustainable liveability can be
Page 69. While public school education is an important investment in Australia’s future, it is impossible to force
people to learn who do not want to learn or who are incapable of higher learning.
It is especially pleasing that state and federal governments should fund libraries.
Page 70. There should be an opportunity for population growth to the slowed to enable a “catch-up” of services
Page 74. It is deemed necessary to carry out more medium and longer term modeling of a range of future
migration scenarios in order to be able to effectively assess their economic, environmental and social
This should be mandatory.
increasing, impacts on not only the Australian economy and society but also on the environment.
This recognition is refreshing!
It could be argued that Australia needs to focus more on education and training of its resident population and
reduce its reliance on international migration for skill.
This is much needed.
Page 75. Migrants settled in regional areas may not stay there, but move to already congested cities or coastal
Page 76. Where migrants come from poorer countries, their environmental footprint enlarges significantly when
they settle in Australia.
Page 77. Pleasing to see recognition of importance of climate change impacts.
Page 79. allow Australians to have the number of children they want
This presupposes the Earth can sustain an infinite number of people. At a time of environmental stresses, peak
oil and climate change, the idea that humans can continue to increase in number without check needs to be
challenged, especially as human numbers have nearly trebled in the last 60 years.
Page 81. The need for open space, access to parks and fresh air is omitted in What Matters in Cities?
Page 84. The Scale Map of Cities does not show quality of life or sustainability of life. The 18 million people
living in San Paulo would have a vastly different life to the 4 million people living in Melbourne.
Page 93. Housing. There may not be an undersupply of housing but an oversupply of people. Our population
has been growing at a rate of about a million new people every three to four years. This must be negatively
impacting on the supply of houses, and other infrastructure.
Page 98. greenfield development, which is projected to house at least a third of the population growth expected
in our cities.
What is the environmental impact of this loss of “greenfield”? If the land is currently food producing, what are the
implications for food security etc? If it is habitat for wildlife, what is the cost to the environment?
Page 101. Employment and Regional Development.
While it may be the case that settlements grow around mining and tourism sites, as the writers acknowledge,
once the mine closes, or the tourism goes out of favour, the sites may no longer be attractive for people to live
in. A lot of mining occurs in harsh environments which are not conducive to human settlement.
Page 114 Environmental Considerations
This section only looked at water accessibility and impacts from climate change. There was nothing about loss
of wildlife habitat, disposal of increased sewerage and garbage, air pollution, water pollution, noise pollution and
a myriad of other problems associated with population growth.
Page 121. As a result the sector is not expected to ‘grow’ the population in remote Australia, but it is expected to
put a great deal of pressure on such infrastructure as may be in such environments, but the population that
serves the sector will continue to live on the eastern seaboard.
This seems to contradict previous sections where the writers considered possible regional development to
accommodate population growth.
Page 125. The provision of jobs, infrastructure and services will not mean automatic migration to regional
communities. To many people, the physical environment is also important e.g. climate and landform.
3.14 Emerging Issue No. 13: Towards Environmental Sustainability.
The balance has for too long been in the economic growth sector, to the detriment of the natural environment.
Indeed, this is acknowledged on page 126:
massive impact that the small number of European settlers had on the Australian natural environment in the 19th
The massive impact continues to today.
Page 130. We need to decouple economic activity from environmental degradation.
We need to develop resilience in natural systems to ensure productivity and ecosystem services are
We need to use natural systems in such a way that they remain available for productive purposes and
ecosystem services vital to the health of water and air.
This appears to be “lip service” to the environmental impacts of population growth. It is also looking at the
environment from an anthropocentric view.
Page 135. Protection of our food supply areas is crucial, as is protection of fragile ecosystems.
Page 136. Foreign aid needs to be directed towards family planning and education of women and children in our
Page 138. The view of no individual should be given hegemony over the views of others.
What weighting will be given to the needs of the natural environment? If a species is threatened with extinction
because of a particular development, be it mining, farming or residential, is the wildlife more important than
The environment should be given more consideration to balance what has already been lost.
Page 139. The drive for economic growth and development to date has taken precedence over sustaining the
natural environment therefore the population strategy needs to redress this past imbalance so that the natural
environment is given more emphasis in the future. Trade offs and compromises have been given by the natural
environment in the past.
The fact that the writers listed 16 “Emerging Issues” and only one related to environmental
sustainability, albeit from an anthropocentric view, shows the imbalance against the natural
environment inherent in the population strategy.
Page 140. How do the writers know the most desirable, sustainable outcomes for Australia lie between the two
“big” and “small” options? Perhaps the most sustainable position is for a “smaller” population.
Report of the Productivity and Prosperity Advisory Panel.
Introductory letter gives lip service to the environment.
Page 2. If population growth activates roads, housing, skills development, why are these things lacking after
record population growth over the last decade or so? Statements similar to this are made throughout the paper,
but there is little evidence to support such statements.
If our capacity to care for the environment improved, why do we have species extinctions, habitat loss, water
shortages, national parks being turned into commercial enterprises etc?
Page 3. Often “red tape” is in place to protect the natural environment, so to cut the red tape would inevitably
remove policies intended to protect our fragile environment. Recent reports from Cyclone Yasi indicate "red
tape" made buildings safer.
Development means the destruction of the natural environment - they cannot go together.
What is “balanced population growth”? It doesn’t allow for boosted investment, it demands it, whether or not the
local council, state or federal government can afford it, or else the existing residents suffer. “And in our
environment” - an afterthought, perhaps?
Page 7. I doubt Australia will be exporting manufactured goods to Asia because we have a higher population or
workforce, unless our workforce is paid on a similar scale to that of our Asian neighbours.
What happens when the young migrants age, and require health care?
It is only in recent years Australia has increased the migration intake to such high levels.
Page 8. The ageing population sounds like scare tactics. There are serious deficiencies in the health care sector
now, with high population growth. More people creates more demand for health services.
Lack of training in the past is the cause of our skills shortage and we should not poach skilled people from other
Page 9. Even with population growth, mining is taking workers away. At what level of migration will the business
sector be happy?
Again, recent rapid population growth has not renewed infrastructure, made housing more affordable nor
repaired our environment so how will future rapid population growth do this?
A slower rate of growth would allow “catch-up” of these things.
Page 10. The source of the problem of housing shortfall is demand higher than supply. Reduce demand (i.e.
population growth) and supply can catch up.
What are the environment impacts of reducing red tape and using greenfield sites? What are the social and
cultural impacts of urban in-fill?
Environmental concerns are not just about energy efficiency!
Page 11. Past economic growth has not benefited the environment. If economic growth did this, national parks
would not be under threat from commercial development, our native forests would be protected, our species
would not be endangered or threatened, our fish stocks would be plentiful.
Page 12. At least with a migration level of 70,000 per annum, the impacts may be manageable.
Not all Australians have rising living standards, as detailed in the Demographic Change and Liveability Panel
The post war higher standard of living may have come about without such rapid recent population growth, and
material well being does not always translate into social, cultural and environmental well being.
Page 15. Myth 1 - Other developed nations are not experiencing rapid population growth so why does Australia
have to have a minimum of 70,000 migrants per year? What its the point of trying to dispel a “myth” that
Australia can avoid a higher population?
It is only in recent times the migrant intake has risen to such high levels.
The same with Myth 2. I’ve never heard it said that Australia is contributing to excessive growth in the world’s
population. To be seen to be “doing our bit” to alleviate world population pressures is ridiculous as the millions
we would need to take would destroy our way of life and our economy. We are the driest nation on Earth with
our population concentrated on the East Coast for good reasons such as climatic and food producing. Countries
with population pressures have serious social, cultural, economic and environmental problems which cannot be
over come easily as so many resources are needed just to keep the general population alive, without raises
standards of living or distributing wealth more evenly.
By taking people from developing nations into our lifestyle, we are contributing to the increase in our carbon
footprint. These migrants come from areas with a low carbon lifestyle into one with a high carbon dependency.
Simple mathematics says if you have x number of people using y resources producing z waste, then by
increasing x the others increase proportionally. Unless there is a reduction in using resources, meaning a lowe
rstandard of living, which Australians would reject.
We do not need to keep others in poverty. Rather, our foreign aid should be directed to helping developing
nations, giving assistance to a much broader population than a few select migrants.
At what level of migration would the business community be happy?
Page 18. A proportion of 0.6 per cent of 15 million is vastly different to a proportion of 0.6 per cent of 30 million,
so the NOM would still be increasing. Rather than NOM being considered as a percentage, it should be
maintained as a number, with the percentage input decreasing as the total population increases.
To write about Australia’s population growth being negligible to world population is missing the point about the
need for a population strategy for Australia.
The study carried out on the fertility rate of migrants relates to 1977-1991. As we now take migrants from
different cultures, one has to wonder if the same drop in fertility occurs.
Page 19. The global population growth rate may have started to decline but the total numbers are still
Page 21. Migrants age too.
Due to our recent huge population growth, there were media reports that our GDP per capita actually declined.
Again, if improved environmental sustainability results from improved standards of living, why it so much of
Australia’s natural environment undergoing stresses from population growth?
Page 22. It is significant that “impacts on material standards of living do not lend themselves to economic
Page 23. Myth 3. What is “balanced population growth”?
Not all baby boomers will require government assistance in their retirement.
Page 24. The benefits not shown in the economic modeling accrue to the economy, not to individuals. Large
economies are not risk proof as shown by the recent GFC.
Page 26. Myth 4 There are many more reasons to New Zealanders moving to Australia than just a bigger
economy. Proximity and climate are two factors; overcrowding in New Zealand may be another. The question
has to be asked - why is there 60,000 Australians in New Zealand?
Page 29. Perhaps the mining sector should be held responsible for the economic problems created in Karratha.
It would appear that economic population pressures result from a rapidly expanding resources sector rather
than the opposite.
Page 32. Development of an educated and skilled Australian population is essential. It should have been
occurring all along.
The lapse in birth rate still resulted in more new borns. Percentages again.
Page 33 Perhaps “the jobs we have now could not have been imagined 40 years ago”, but there has been
plenty of time in recent years to train our own workforce such as doctors and tradespeople (page 32). Training
in these jobs has been severely lacking over the last twenty years.
Page 37. With high migration levels recently, apparently raising our standard of living and GDP, why is there
such a shortfall in educational funding? Does this mean the projections about the benefits of migration put
forward here do not necessarily follow through?
With a low participation rate, does that mean migrants could be taking work from un- or under-employed
Again, 70,000 migrants per year has been more usual before the year 2000, so it seems disingenuous so
suggest this is a “bad’ figure to aim for.
Page 38. The writers have already pointed out that Australia’s population will grow even with 70,000 migrants,
so to suggest it will be “much more expensive to update existing infrastructure” is misleading. The writers also
admit there is a current infrastructure deficit, after record population growth, so it is not necessarily population
growth that determines infrastructure provision but government policy.
Page 40 Myth 6. Why is housing so expensive? Will “adequate” infrastructure be provided?
Page 41. Housing affordability is not dependent on transport infrastructure, and the spread of urban areas has
consequences for our food security and our environment.
Page 44. Building new liveable cities - the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast have merged with Brisbane.
Having seen and experienced some of the changes, I doubt that the area could be called “liveable”. Despite
massive investment, the roads still become congested with traffic.
Perhaps people moving to the medium sized cities are seeking a more “liveable” lifestyle which then becomes
eroded due to population growth and the consequent problems.
Page 47. Urban sprawl to accommodate the housing market means loss of habitat or farming land and
Careful planning is needed to avoid the above problems.
Infrastructure and engineering are essential and should be at the highest level possible, even if it does cost an
extra $10-30,000 per lot. This does not seem a great deal when the threshold for the first home owners grant
has been raised to over $800,000.
Planning is necessary to retain some of our heritage. Some people like having spare bedrooms for visitors,
studies or craft rooms etc. and the problems listed with downsizing are not issues.
Page 49. Improving public transport is essential.
Page 51. Australia’s East Coast is already under immense pressure from population growth. Any regional
development should be focused on areas west of the Great Divide.
Page 52. Perhaps, due to the climate, topography and isolation of Karratha, no matter how much infrastructure
is provided, once the mining finishes, very few people will want to live there. Some sort of alternative
employment would be needed to maintain the “critical mass” but this would be difficult due to transport costs.
Agriculture would be very difficult, unlike Townsville which also has defence force bases.
Cyclone Yasi emphasised the problems associated with large population centres in the Tropics.
Page 53. Rainfall distribution could also be a hindrance to agriculture.
Page 54. To compare the rainfall averages with that of Europe and North America is meaningless without also
looking at temperatures, evaporation rates and landform. The areas in Europe and North America are above 30
degrees latitude while most of Australia is below 30 degrees. That is, most of Australia is closer to the Equator
and has higher temperatures and evaporation rates.
Figure 7.1 is deceptive as the arid and semi-arid regions of Australia are shown as green, even though this
represents just 10 to 50 mm per month, and it does not show the evaporation rates.
Page 55- 56. While most of our water resource may be used for agriculture, settlements still need water.
Regional areas in NSW were in dire straights before recent rain with dam levels down to nearly nothing in some
areas. More people in these areas will mean more water is needed.
While water consumption per person may have decreased, the gains will be lost as population grows so total
consumption will still increase.
I doubt it could be said that Australia has “sizeable water resources” when it is one of the driest continents on
Earth. The seasonality and location of the rainfall is significant as is landform required for water storage
capabilities. The environmental impact of new water storage facilities also needs to be taken into account. For
example the proposed Tilligra Dam on the Hunter has been shelved due to the negative impact on the
To say there is plenty of water to support a larger population is also avoiding the point that a larger population
will need more food production which will need more water.
Some farmers would say there is not more room for water reform!
Page 58. The way to ensure energy security is to promote renewable energy. Increased population puts
increased demand on energy supplies, including coal fired power stations. Household incomes have no
connection with oil prices, rather high oil prices reduce household disposable income.
Page 59. Faster rates of growth will not dampen the demand for energy. A slower rate of growth may enable
supply to meet demand.
Page 61. The coastal ecosystems with “significant biodiversity and environmental resources” is the area most
favoured by humans and therefore most vulnerable to population growth.
Page 66. To preserve our natural environment, when development is being considered, the natural environment
needs to be given precedence over social and economic factors, to balance the destruction that has occurred in
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT PANEL REPORT
Page 6. As an example of the shortcoming of using GDP as a measure of economic growth, the floods in QLD
(Jan2010) were expected to cost just a small percentage of GDP but this was alright because rebuilding and
reconstruction activity would improve the GDP in the months afterwards. It did not take into account the
devastation to families through loss of income, loved ones or homes, stock, pets etc. Measuring GDP does not
treat humans as human being, only as labour and consumers.
Page 14. Policy condition for Sustainability 3: Population growth should be limited by severely reducing
immigration until indicators are developed and met.
Page 16. If NOM is reduced even further, to say 70,000, then the demand-supply gap will be even lower.
Page 18. The NSW State Government just approved the development of farm land near Wollongong to meet
the growing population, despite opposition from Shellharbour Council and local residents. Another example of
loss of farm land to urban sprawl.
Page 29. Regional development will just move the problems of the city (eg congestion, traffic, social problems
and infrastructure shortages) to the regional areas.
Coastal areas should not be included in any regional development as they already suffer from population
growth. Much of the north coast of NSW has become urbanised from Ballina to the border town of Tweed
It is outrageous that the Federal Government does not more closely control the immigration program when there
are so many problems resulting from rapid population growth.
Q1: What issues do you think a Sustainable Population Strategy for Australia should address?
The non-economic impact and economic cost of immigration.
Reducing financial incentives used to increase the birth rate.
Working out how to have a “steady state economy” as “growth” is not good for sustainability.
How to better protect the natural environment from increasing numbers of people.
Population and the Environment:
Q2: What do you think are the key indicators of an environmentally sustainable community?
No further biodiversity loss.
No further loss of farm land to urban sprawl, be it city or regional or small villages.
No further loss of forests.
A stable level of water use for domestic, industrial and agricultural uses.
Improvements in urban air quality.
Reduction in garbage.
See also Table 1.1: Indicators of Sustainability, page 8, Sustainable Development Panel Report.
The State of the Environment Report 2011 should also be taken into account, to be published later this year by
the Federal Government.
Q3: How have changes in the population impacted on your local environment?
More garbage, more sewerage, more water pollution.
Not being able to find a deserted beach.
Less “personal space”.
Crowded shops and car parks.
Less open space.
Loss of habitat.
More road kill of native animals.
More and faster traffic.
Q4: How might technological or governance improvements mitigate the environmental impacts of
More people equals more congestion. No amount of “good” planning nor technology nor governance can
alleviate this fact - there will always be a negative impact on the environment from more people.
Q5: How do population driven changes in your local economy affect your environment?
Any increased money flows go directly to business owners.
The ‘small town’ feel is lost and rather than a relaxed lifestyle, the feeling becomes hurried and impersonal.
More economic activity means more garbage, more waste disposal problems, more congested shops, queues
Q6: What lessons have we learnt that will help us to better manage the impacts of population
change on the environment?
None. We have not learned that more people means more harm to the environment.
Q7: What do you see as the defining characteristics of a flourishing and sustainable economy?
One which produces only what is needed.
Less processed and packaged food.
Waste is minimised and what is left is recycled.
Housing demand equals supply.
Essential services (water, power, communications) are in public ownership and not for ever increasing profit of
Greater equality between workers and employers.
Less dependence on non-renewable power.
Q8: Is your community, business or industry facing skills shortages or other immediate economic
pressures, and how are these best managed?
Q9: In the decades to come, what challenges and opportunities will our economy face, and how will
they interact with changes in our population?
Answer: Depends on whether we reign in population growth or not.
Challenges: Our economy will have to change to one that is non-carbon fuelled.
More natural climatic disasters such as the recent drought and more recently, floods and cyclones throughout
inland Eastern Australia.
What to do when the resources boom finishes.
Paying for increased services such as police, health, education for a rapidly increasing population.
Peak oil restricting access to fuel.
Opportunities: For infrastructure supply to catch up with demand if population is stabilised.
Development of a renewable energy industry.
Less obesity with less processed and packaged food, and more use of cycling and walking for transport.
Diversifying the economy to reduce dependence on tourism and to increase local food supply.
Interaction with Population: If we continue with a rapid rise in population, more people will be affected by
disasters, costing more in personal and economic terms.
A higher population means a higher per capita reduction is required in greenhouse gas emissions.
A higher population growth rate means there is less chance of infrastructure supply catching up with demand.
With a lower rate of growth, people may be able to afford to own their own home, infrastructure supply may
catch up with demand, we may be able to achieve our international obligations to reducing our per capita
greenhouse gas emissions. We may be able to develop an economy where we can supply our own necessities
with less carbon based fuel.
Q10: How should we measure the sustainability of our local, regional and national economies?
When resource use has no environmental impact.
Q11: What are the things that make your community a good place to live?
A relaxed lifestyle with relatively fewer people and an abundance of natural areas of coast and forest.
Little emphasis on consumerism.
An awareness of climate change and the urgent need to take remedial action.
Able to find a car park when shopping or going to the beach.
Friendly shop assistants.
No traffic lights or roundabouts.
Q12: How have changes in the population changed the way you live your life?
We relocated 1100 kilometres away, as the place we had moved to 25 years previous no longer existed.
Swamps had been filled, and open space and farms covered with housing and shopping malls, beaches were
always crowded, national parks were becoming “loved to death”. The start of the urban area, as shown by the
50 kph zone, had been moved 5 kilometres west. Small owner-operated shops were shut down when big
corporations moved into town. Fresh seafood became really expensive or impossible to buy. Traffic snarls;
several roundabouts were constructed. Queues for shops, traffic.
Since moving 8 years ago, our new area has lost open space to urban sprawl, and some of the old character of
the town has been lost to redevelopment with new units, duplexes and “McMansions”. Traffic has become
heavier, streets and beaches more crowded. More traffic means increased roadkill of native wildlife.
There is always a percentage of people who ignore rules, for whatever reason, and as the population grows, the
percentage may stay the same but the numbers increase. So there are more people walking their dogs in
conservation areas, unleashed and not collecting the waste, there are more people littering gutters, beaches
and roadsides, more crime. Greater pressure on beaches and fish stocks. More disturbance to wildlife in
We walk at times when there are fewer people likely to be around. We avoid shopping at the busiest times. We
live on a small acreage property to have our own “personal space”.
Q13: What sustainability issues need to be addressed in order for your community to accommodate
a changing Australian population?
We need to reduce population growth. We need to recognise that population does not have to continually
increase, and cannot continually increase because there are finite limits to our use of resources.
That population increase destroys the very reason people like to live here.
Human existence is dependent on the sustainability of ALL life on Earth. We need to reduce our population
burden so that the rest of life on Earth has a chance.
Q14: What are some useful indicators to help measure the liveability and sustainability of our
People are content with their lifestyle.
People have access to nature to appreciate our interdependency and to value conservation.
Houses are affordable.
Education and health services are good; law and order adequate.
No traffic congestion.
Adequate and affordable public transport.
Energy sources are renewable.