Recently released population growth data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that some of the regions with the strongest population growth are in South-West Western Australia.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) the national population increased by 1.6% over the 12 months to June 2014. Across the individual states, the rate of population growth was fastest in: WA (2.2%), Vic (1.9%) and NSW and Qld (both 1.5%). The rate of growth was much slower in SA (0.9%), Tas (0.3%), NT (1.0%) and ACT (1.2%).

Based on an analysis of the rate of population growth across council areas of the country, Serpentine-Jarrahdale in Western Australia recorded the fastest growth at 6.8%. This region is located within Greater Perth to the south of the city and is a new housing region on the outskirts of the city. The region with the second strongest increase in population was Camden in Sydney with growth of 6.1% over the year. It is south west of the city and like Serpentine-Jarrahdale is an area synonymous with new housing.

Most of the regions listed amongst the fastest growing regions are within capital cities, with greenfield regions around NSW, Vic and WA showing prominently on the list. Another metropolitan trend that is very visible is the impact of greater demand for inner city housing and increasing density with both the Sydney and Melbourne council areas listed.

Outside of the metro areas, an interesting trend is the strong rate of growth across south-west WA markets which can be characterised as both sea change and tree change areas. Rockingham, Busselton, Capel, Waroona, Murray and Augusta-Margaret River are all lifestyle markets located south of Perth. Each of these markets are amongst the 25 regions with the fastest rate of population growth over the past year.

 

Council areas with the fastest rate of population growth 2014*

 

The chart also shows the change in median house prices over the past 12 months (note that for Sydney and Melbourne LGAs we have used unit prices as apartments are the predominant type of housing in these areas). Of the 25 fastest growing council areas, only Gladstone has recorded a fall in median prices over the year. The data shows that generally a growing population will fuel housing demand and result in higher property prices, however, as the Gladstone example shows, a high rate of population growth is not necessarily guaranteed to increase prices.

Looking at the 25 council areas that have recorded the fastest rate of decline in population over the year the most notable trend is that most are in regional WA. This is despite the fact that WA was the state with the fastest rate of population growth over the past year.

The other factor which is immediately noticeable is just how small the populations of all of these regions are. These small population council regions are suffering from both a brain drain, where younger age groups are moving away, as well as the fact that larger regional centres act as a sponge, drawing residents away from the small population bases towards areas with more services and availability of amenity. Despite most regions being small in population, there are some interesting areas on the list. Most notably the region with the largest fall, Derby-West Kimberley, which is a mining region in far north WA. The population of the region has dropped by -5.4% over the year. While the population has dropped, so too has the median house price which is -22.0% lower.

 

Council areas with the slowest rate of population growth 2014

 

The only other regions of substantial size on the list are Cook in Qld and West Coast in Tas.

At a national level the rate of population growth is slowing and it looks set to continue to slow over the coming year with the rate of overseas migration continuing to moderate. We are also seeing a large discrepancy between the rate of population growth in capital cities and regional areas, again something which is likely to continue. It will be interesting to watch the trend towards stronger population growth in lifestyle regions like south-west WA and to also note if over the coming years this trend is replicated in other sea-change and tree-change areas.

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