A regional lobby has an answer for capital cities grappling with congestion: look to the bush.
It comes as a new report shows Australia’s cities are at their most congested state, with the highest rates of population growth felt in Melbourne and Perth.
It places “regional capitals” such as Wagga in an ideal position to mitigate “crippling” congestion, according to Regional Capitals Australia (RCA).
“Australia’s population is growing rapidly and our metropolitan cities are already crippled with rising congestion, putting regional capitals in a position to ease the squeeze,” RCA chairman Deirdre Comerford said.
The report, State of Australian Cities, said population growth was clogging up the transport systems of major cities and making capacity of freight, ports and airports a challenge for policy-makers.
The recent Australian Infrastructure Audit estimates the cost of national congestion will increase to $53.3 billion in 2031.
Councillor Comerford urged decision-makers to “commit” to regional capitals.
“The time for a rethink is now,” he said.
“RCA has made a clear call to action – our national leaders must take a good look at the potential that sits outside the urban growth boundaries of our capital cities – and commit to sustainably growing our regional capitals.”
Cr Comerford said regional capitals needed a new wave of infrastructure investment to make them more productive and meet the “growing need” for the movement of freight and people throughout the regions.
The state government is currently investigating the possibility of a Wagga bypass that key players such as Committee 4 Wagga (C4W) believe will boost the productivity of the city.
Also highlighted in the report was the growing concern of having an ageing population.
Last week, it was revealed Coolamon had the highest rate of average age increases in the Riverina, while Wagga had the youngest rate. But mayor Rod Kendall attributed that to transient population factors such as the army bases and the university.
The report said educational attainment and employment levels are lower across the board in regional areas.
“This report clearly states that there is ‘a large pool of underutilised human capital’ in our cities, which must be garnered to shift the level of productivity in Australia more broadly,” Cr Comerford said.
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