BIG GROWTH: Coffs Harbour's unique diversity as a major regional city demands we be included in big population discussions.
BIG GROWTH: Coffs Harbour's unique diversity as a major regional city demands we be included in big population discussions. Trevor Veale

Big questions demand answers in population debate

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has weighed into the divisive debate of whether Australia should slash the number of migrants by describing the current intake as "just right.”

It would appear Labor leader Luke Foley also agrees with her but while both are obviously looking at the issue as far as metropolitan services and infrastructure are concerned, Regional Australia Institute (RAI) is arguing the case for growth centres such as Coffs Harbour to be included in the population debate.

For several weeks RAI chief executive Jack Archer has drawn attention to one-sided views and talked up the position of major population centres in the bush and the economic and social benefits provided by growth.

"It is incredibly disappointing to see dismissive attitudes to the potential contribution regional Australia can make to a big Australia,” he said.

"Regions are already home to nearly nine million Australians and a national network of thriving great small cities.

"Their future will be shaped by this debate, too, and limiting the debate to challenges and opportunities for city slickers alone, is just the wrong approach.”

As the debate stands at present, discussions are restricted to state capitals while the case for major centres like Newcastle, Gold Coast, Geelong and even Canberra, are being virtually ignored.

While that is the case, what hope does Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie or Grafton have of putting forward a proposal that would assist population and economic growth?

"Unfortunately the current debate is blinded by the short term and the dominance of the inner city view, supporting the pervasive myth that regions are stuck in a cycle of low or no growth, that they are a second rate investment and a poor career choice.

"The ripple effect from the housing boom and ridiculous housing prices in inner Melbourne and Sydney is pushing people to look elsewhere.

"We estimate that for every 100,000 people who choose small cities instead of big cities $50 billion is released into the economy through avoided congestion and mortgage costs

"It's short sighted and unnecessary to dismiss the role of regions and particularly our great small cities in creating a big and successful Australia.

"Time for Australia to take a proper look at the regional option.”