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Our shrinking population

31 Jan 2012

Docklands will end up with almost 25 per cent fewer residents by 2020 than was originally envisaged with Places Victoria again revising down its population estimates.

In 2007 VicUrban (which has become Places Victoria) was assuring businesses and investors that Docklands’ population would reach 20,000 by 2020 when the suburb would be effectively “built out”.

But by 2008, that number was whittled down to 17,000 with both Places Victoria and the City of Melbourne in agreement. This 17,000 by 2020 figure is still reported on the docklands.com (Places Victoria) and the City of Melbourne’s website.

But Places Victoria now says that the 17,000 mark won’t be achieved until 2025. Its manager for city west Simon Wilson says the 17,000 mark will still be reached but it will take another five years. He said 15,500 people would live in Docklands in 2020.

The downward revision of estimates puts the figure closer to what consultant experts have been saying for years.

In March 2006, when VicUrban was still predicting 20,000 residents by 2020, ID Consulting said Docklands would have just 12,924 people by 2018.

In January last year, ID Consulting was predicting just 12,521 Docklands residents by 2021 – a figure that it has now revised to 13,148.  It currently thinks that Docklands’ population will be 16,682 by 2031.

In September 2010, Charter Keck Cramer reported in its Docklands Insight that Docklands would only have a population of 12,260 by 2021.

ID Consulting claims it is better at predicting population figures than either the State Government or the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

Forecaster Johnny Barnard told Docklands News that his firm tended to be less “bullish” than development authorities.

“We take a more sober view of what we think will happen than development authorities,” Mr Barnard said.

And Mr Barnard disputes that Docklands will be completed by 2025.  He says 2031 is a more realistic “build out” date.

“We view what is happening with both supply and demand levels.  You have to look at what is happening in terms of competition from Southbank and in the western end of the CBD,” he said.

“And Docklands is tricky because there are no absolutes about what will end up as residential and what will become commercial.”

ID Consulting has been engaged by the City of Melbourne since 2002 to supply population forecasts to inform future planning decisions.

The council recently used ID Consulting estimates in its draft open space strategy.  In planning for Docklands open space, the document which was released last November says Docklands will have only 14,205 residents by 2026.

In its 2009 Docklands Small Area Economic and Demographic Profile, the council was predicting a Docklands population of 16,000  by 2021.

Places Victoria’s docklands.com website currently says: “By 2020, it is expected that 17,000 people will live in this waterfront precinct.”  The City of Melbourne’s website is in alignment, saying: “It is estimated that by around 2020 Docklands will have 20 million visitors each year, a workplace for 40,000 people daily and a residential area for up to 17,000.”

The council says it is waiting for the release of the 2011 census before making any further predictions of population growth.

“Council’s city research branch will wait for the release of ABS Census 2011 information before undertaking further work regarding population forecasting,” a council spokesperson said.

Docklands Chamber of Commerce president Keith Rankin said residential population numbers were not particularly relevant to local businesses.

Rather, he said, visitation numbers were the most significant measure of future business confidence and success.

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