Townsville, why grow? We look at the huge, city-wide benefits that Townsville could see if we went up in size. You’ll be surprised by the answers.
THE CITY’S TOUGH DECISIONS
There’s a wide diversity of priorities that are being expressed from our Townsville business community. Those who want to see Townsville grow to become the metropolis of the north and those who long to return to the days when we had a sleepy population of 90,000 people. Here’s the thing: we can’t go backwards. Growth comes with a wealth of benefits – both for our community, the businesses and our future generations – and Townsville is on the cusp of reaping these rewards. However, our decision makers and leaders must come together as one in order to make the tough decisions that will drive us forward, otherwise we face the risk of moving into a directionless future.
WHAT DOES GROWTH MEAN?
Geoffrey West, Theoretical Physicist and distinguished professor of the Sante Fe Institute, has spent his career studying and creating scientific formulas on the growth and behaviour of cities.
“Cities are just a physical manifestation of your interactions, our interaction and the clustering and grouping of individuals.” – Geoffrey West
Geoffrey and his team have unearthed a formula which indicates that as a city, “the bigger you are, the more you have per capita.” So what’s the magic number? It’s 15% to be accurate. He calls this the 1.15 rule.
“If you double the size of a city – from 100,00 to 200,000, from 1 million to 2 million, from 10 million to 20 million, it doesn’t matter – then systematically you get a 15% increase in wages, wealth, number of aids cases, number of police, anything you can think of, it goes up by 15%. And you have a 15% savings on infrastructure,” he said in a recent talk.
This 15% rule is true regardless of where you are on the planet. It’s universal. Based on this factor alone, it’s no surprise that so many people are attracted to cities. This clustering of people living together as part of a networked ecosystem brings efficiencies, economy of scale, shared resources and infrastructure and higher wages. However, it also creates problems with crime rate, congestion and more.
THE QUESTION IS
Growth has exceptional benefits for Townsville. This includes keeping our talented North Queensland youth – your sons, daughters, friends – in our working community.
The Greater Tokyo area has 38 million inhabitants. That’s 14 million more than the entire population of Australia. Yet Tokyo was voted one of the worlds most livable metropolises by Monocle in 2016. At the end of the day, controlling the size of a city is near impossible. There are so many factors that impact on population numbers. But what we can control is how we manage that growth. Do we want to attract more skilled workers? Focus on the resources sector? Diversify? Build on innovation or tourism? All these are questions that determine how we grow and what the city will look like 10 years from now.
“It is all too often forgotten that the whole point of a city is to bring people together, to facilitate interaction, and thereby to create ideas and wealth, to enhance innovative thinking and encourage entrepreneurship and cultural activity by taking advantage of the extraordinary opportunities that the diversity of a great city offers.” ‐ Geoffrey West
HERE’S THE CATCH
As a community, and particularly as a business community, we’re not all going to want the same thing. However, to ensure Townsville’s continuous growth and success, questions need to be discussed and debated so we can set a clear direction for the decision makers in our city to follow. If we’re not all pulling in the same direction, toward the same goals, we’ll be sailing into an unknown future with no keel or rudder. Townsville’s internal struggle is that we still want the small town connections that we have come to love so much. What some don’t realize is that we don’t have to sacrifice those benefits if we get bigger. We just need to find a balance so we can continue close relationships.
Within a single generation, this city has doubled in size. We are still getting used to the increased demands on resources, infrastructure, planning, services and more. As a city, we need to learn from other regions who have handled population growth well and as a business community, we need to set a clear direction for the region that our decision makers and elected leaders will follow. Don’t leave it to someone else. Get involved at every level. Join business networks, go to functions and breakfasts, meet people, listen, discuss the problems and potentials of our region and let’s find solutions together and set a clear direction for this beautiful city. Our growth is in your hands.
So what could our city look like in ten years time? We look at ideas, predictions and projections for the future of Townsville.