Why Mass Immigration Will See the Australian Environment Destroyed
Current moves by the Australian Government and businesses pushing for a green Australia would have us believe that climate change and environmental destruction are a national threat. But they ignore the elephant in the room that the environmental destruction occurring is not due to climate change but due to overpopulation and the pressure placed on already ageing infrastructure.
What does this mean for Australia with its high population growth and inadequate infrastructure development?
The world is facing two very large problems: climate change and population growth through migration. This growth is concentrated in the cities such as Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane (Bolleter,.et.al,2021). With 88% of the Australian population living in cities and facing a shortage of housing infrastructure add to that annual population growth of 20% due to immigration ( J.Kellet 2019).
A major concern is the lack of suitable land on the Australian Continent as it is largely unsustainable for large-scale development and infrastructure due to its climate and hostile environmental conditions. Much of Australia is desert with limited water supplies making any development in Northern Australia impractical.
Urban development has been confined to a very small part of Australia in the southeastern mainland and Tasmania. Therefore it is the only part of Australia that can support a heavily urbanized population. It’s this area of the country where we are seeing the population growth increasing due to mass immigration with more urban development needed to keep up with the demand for housing and infrastructure. The supply to meet this demand caused by population growth has not kept up. ( J.Kellet.2019) Due to the nature of this problem, a trans-disciplinary solution is required made in the form of a National policy embracing all government departments from local to state guided by a national population policy initiative or national environmental policy and development initiative.( Bolleter,.et.al,2021)
As there is no significant population and national development policy currently at the national level. The only thing approaching this is the concept of high-speed rail links linking regional centres with major cities ( Bolleter.et.all 2021). A trans-disciplinary solution incorporates environmental science, urban geography and effective environmental controls operating as a national development and environmental control population policy.
What are the economic reasons behind the pro-growth lobby’s demand for a high population growth rate for Australia? Australia’s population growth migrant intake pre-covid was 140,000 migrants per year. It must be understood that this number is cumulative and taken with the natural birth rates works out to be a huge increase in population.( Betts &Gilding 2006)
The economic advantages of high immigration and population growth benefit the building industry, real estate, and property developers. The Government sees the demand caused by immigration as way to stimulate growth and many business interests sees Australia as being large and empty and in need of immigrants. In economic terms what this means is that with high immigration the demand for goods and services is high, such as the demand for houses which drives development and associated consumer spending and that stimulates economic growth. So an argument can be made that the higher our population the more demand for services and infrastructure and consumer demand which contributes to economic growth (Betts&Golding.2006 ).
While the development boom caused by mass immigration increased the demand for housing and the establishment of new suburbs the question arises who will pay for the infrastructure? Traditionally and legally it was the developer who provided the infrastructure services such as footpaths, open spaces and stormwater drainage for example. Once the development is complete the infrastructure is handed over to local government to maintain and paid for by rates.
There has been a trend towards the private provision of infrastructure born by developers themselves. ( Kettler & Nunninton.2019)
With this demand for infrastructure and the mass development of new housing in cities there is an increased demand for transportation infrastructure. Due to the massive costs involved the question is who pays? Public-private partnerships are an increasingly popular way to fund infrastructure projects and are of great benefit to the community if planned correctly with public consultation. But they can also cause great harm if the financial interest of private investors take precedence over the public good.
Case study Westconnex and the Financialisation of infrastructure. Westconnex is a 33km private tollway built in Sydney for $16.8 Billion AUD cost. Sydney has the highest number of private tollways in the world and is a top location for private investable infrastructure asset management.
West Connex is a private monopoly founded through secret contracts as public-private partnership as a private toll road with government underwriting all the risks. It was presented to the public in sections so there was no public consultation regarding the project.
With the project being made up of private secret contracts with each stage of the construction being compartmentalized there was no consultation or contact between planners and engineers.
The key aim of the project was in fact to maximise profit for investors with a no-competition clause included in the contract so that if any initiatives to reduce cars and trucks on the road or alternative transportation plans were introduced the Government would be liable for lost profits. This affects efforts and initiatives to reduce carbon emissions by reducing cars on the road and hinders the ability of the city of Sydney to fight climate change by stopping the use of Green transport options. The project was simply commodifying public infrastructure and underwriting a private project.
The case here is the government has chosen the most expensive project and put profit ahead of people. (McManus.2021. To avoid this type of situation a trans-disciplinary design, project management and planning stage should be used with input for public consultation. An effective trans-disciplinary national planning framework must have national approvals and processes in place that are transparent to oversee our infrastructure as it struggles to keep pace with population growth.
The Australian federal government has been attempting to establish a national urban development policy but this has been hindered due to constitutional and political factors. The current attempt is a part of the Smart Cities program, a national transdisciplinary initiative called the city deals program whereby industry, government, and community work together in a trans-disciplinary program to deliver effective planning solutions it involves all three levels of government. In this transdisciplinary partnership, an effective and sustainable infrastructure including housing is delivered in a sustainable and liveability-and social cohesion but with its main aim of economic growth. It’s in essence a customized approach to planning with an-increased sustainability that is transdisciplinary, meaning that includes all of the government and private sector and the general public working towards a shared objective. Unfortunately due to the nature of the Australian constitution and the nature of federal versus state politics, it’s a short-term solution to a long-term problem.( Hu.2020) This is the reason there are huge waiting lists at hospitals why services are overstretched and why Medicare is failing
In conclusion, the Australian continent’s environmentally unsustainable for mass settlement. Its environment has a very low carry capacity thus making it a very small place the only subtle places are the southeast corner with a growth lobby pushing for higher immigration targets and no overall effective national population and environmental action planning. These problems are complex and with the issues of Climate Change and environmental degradation and infrastructure decay and with the problems of profit over people and planet these problems can on be solved by acting with transdisciplinary planning and policy incorporating both public and private stakeholders to act with unified sense of purpose which unfortunately is not the case. This is not the way Smart Cities initiative works on a tactical level, not on the strategic national level needed with full control over local and state planning approvals.
So what does all this mean? It means that we have millions of migrants entering this country without the infrastructure to support the existing population and thus causing our standards of living to go down. This is why house rental prices are going through the roof. Next time you see a beloved park being turned into a high rise or that two week wait for a doctor’s appointment and you ask yourself the question. The answer is simple: too many people and not enough resources. As our population hits 28 million in the next two years it will not be long before those wait times get even longer and our cities look like Hong Kong.
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Julian Bolleter, Bill Grace, Robert Freestone & Paula Hooper (2021): Informing future Australian settlement planning through a national-scale suitability analysis, International Planning Studies, DOI: 10.1080/13563475.2021.1899903
Betts, K., & Gilding, M. (2006). The Growth Lobby and Australia’s Immigration Policy. People and Place (Clayton), 14(4), 40–52.
Kellett, J., & Nunnington, N. (2019). Infrastructure for new Australian housing: Who pays and how? Cities, 92, 10–17. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cities.2019.03.007
McManus, P., & Haughton, G. (2021). Fighting to undo a deal: Identifying and resisting the financialization of the WestConnex motorway, Sydney, Australia. Environment and Planning. A, 53(1), 131–149. https://doi.org/10.1177/0308518X20933279
Hu, R. (2020). Australia’s national urban policy: The smart cities agenda in perspective. The Australian Journal of Social Issues, 55(2), 201–217. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajs4.104