Over the past decade, Melbourne’s population has ballooned by 832,000 or 23%, with an average 83,200 people flooding into the city each and every year, driven mostly via immigration (see next chart).
The collateral damage from this high immigration program has been felt far and wide, ranging from worsening traffic congestion, deteriorating housing affordability, and the overall erosion of public services.
One such area that has been badly affected is Melbourne’s public schools, which are now suffering from chronic over-crowding as they struggle to keep pace with the rampant population growth.
An example of this mess was on display yesterday in the Herald-Sun, which noted that some students are being forced to work on cushions on the floor and play in neighbouring parks because there simply is not the space to accommodate them:
STUDENTS are being forced to work on the floor, on cushions, in corridors and on a balcony at a cramped Melbourne school.
In the latest example of the state schools squeeze, North Melbourne Primary School has even introduced lap boards for Year 4 students to use as makeshift desks in one overcrowded transportable, according to parents…
It comes three months after the Herald Sun revealed packed schools across the state were taking over neighbouring parks and roads as play spaces and scheduling multiple lunch and recess times, due to a lack of forward planning…
A government review predicts the North Melbourne school will grow by about 100 students per year, reaching a staggering 2166 by 2031, but also suggests there is no need for a new Docklands school to help relieve pressure until then.
North Melbourne is one of a raft of schools bursting at the seams in Melbourne’s inner city and around the state as population growth outstrips capacity.
The above case study is not an isolated example, either. Back in February, Peter Goss, School Education Program Director at the Grattan Institute, penned an excellent article in The Conversation assessing the upcoming shortage of schools across Australia’s capital cities as the nation’s population balloons:
Australia’s population is booming. With it will come more school students – an estimated 650,000 more by 2026, an increase of 17% from today. Many new schools will be needed. Planning new schools is a long-term game: a child born today will start school in 2021 and complete year 12 in 2033…
To accommodate these extra 650,000 students, some 400 to 750 new schools will be needed. (Currently, there are about 9,400 schools in Australia.) Most will be primary schools – about 250 to 500.
Between two-thirds and three-quarters are likely to be government schools, with the remainder being either Catholic or Independent…
Most of the new schools will be needed in the outer-growth corridors of Sydney, Melbourne and Perth; the big Queensland cities outside Brisbane; and the resurgent inner city of Melbourne and to a lesser extent Sydney…
In the inner city, the big issue is the cost and scarcity of land…
Governments have been much worse at planning for the booming number of inner-city children…
Worse is to come, especially in Melbourne. Melbourne’s five most central local government areas will each see a 30% to 60% increase in student numbers over the next decade…
Inner-city parents in urban redevelopment zones are the most likely to have problems getting their children into a government school, followed by young families in outer growth corridors.
So here we have yet another case of Australia’s dysfunctional population ponzi in action.
The Federal Government massively ramped-up immigration from 2004 which, when combined with the mini baby boom encouraged by the baby bonus, is leading to surging demand for schooling.
However, the states have been unable to accommodate this growth – due in part to incompetence, but also through lack of funds courtesy of Australia’s famous vertical fiscal imbalance, whereby the federal government collects most of the revenue.
This dysfunction is arguably most apparent across inner city areas. The states have been successful in forcing urban consolidation and infill development, as evidenced by the proliferation of apartment development across our major cities. However, they have been totally unsuccessful in providing the necessary infrastructure to accommodate this growth, be it schools or transport infrastructure.
The fact that Melbourne’s Docklands still does not have its own school – despite a decade-plus of rampant development – is testament to this incompetence, as is the new Fisherman’s Bend mega-development, which will eventually be twice the size of Docklands but ridiculously has no land set aside for schools!
All of which brings me back, once again, to the sage comments made last year by The Australia Insitute’s Richard Denniss, who lamented the government’s complete and utter neglect to manage the nation’s population explosion:
“Australia is one of the fastest growing countries in the developed world and our infrastructure isn’t keeping up. It isn’t keeping up now and hasn’t kept up for the last 10 years, and it’s not budgeted to keep up in the next 10.”
“What politicians are doing is every year they announce record spending on this and a new that, but what they don’t point out is that on a per person basis, per person we are spending less on health, per person we’ve got less access to transport, per person the reason the queues in the hospital keeps getting longer is because we are not building hospitals as fast as we are growing our population. They all know it, they just don’t say it”…
“If you want to double your population – and that’s our plan – we want to double our population – you have to at least double your infrastructure to maintain people’s standard of living… We’re talking schools, we’re talking hospitals, we’re talking trains, we’re talking roads, we’re talking police”…
“Population growth costs a lot… If you double the number of citizens then you double the number of teachers and double the number of nurses. It’s pretty simple math. But of course, you don’t have to double them if you gradually plan to lower the number of services. If you are happy for us to gradually lower the number of services in our health system, our aged system, if you are happy for congestion to gradually get worse, if you are happy for the amount of green space per person to decline, then you can do what we do”.
Ongoing population growth without adequate planning and investment means more time lost in traffic, more expensive (and smaller) housing, less services (e.g. health and education), and overall lower living standards.
The equation is that simple, but so often ignored by our politicians and policy makers.
If you care about this issue, vote 1 for the Sustainable Australia Party in the Senate at the upcoming Federal Election.
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