Slow down and re-plan, says Salt

JULY 2010

THE demographer who coined the ‘seachange’ and ‘treechange’ shifts believes the Gold Coast is in danger of losing its social and economic fabric if it cannot address the ongoing affordability housing issue.

Bernard Salt has laid down the gauntlet for state and local planners to accommodate families paying sub $300,000 for a three-bedroom brick veneer home on 500sqm.

Salt believes the Coast has a responsibility to regain its fastest growing regional centre tag, using western outskirt towns of Melbourne such as Werribee as an example to be followed.

“The Gold Coast has been dominant as this region’s leading growth area for 30 years and that’s because of the inherent desire by the Australian people for lifestyle and retirement and the Gold Coast has captured that market,” he says.

“It’s a stunning city created in 40 years on an idea, the idea of leisure, lifestyle, retirement and commuting. What I argue is that it’s still very important, but there’s another scheme coming through and that’s affordability.

“The western suburbs of Melbourne are growing faster than the Gold Coast. The Gold Coast dominated that (but) it now has a competitor and that is affordability.

“I mean house and land packaged for under $300,000. Melbourne, a city of 4 million people can do it, why can’t the Gold Coast?

“Why is it that Melbourne can deliver house and land packages for $280,000 in a city that is five or six times bigger and the Gold Coast can’t.”

Salt says the commitment to change must be made across state and local governments and likely for the duration of several terms of office.

“The game here is to say ‘great idea’ but there’s just no land. Sorry but I don’t agree with that. It’s a question of priorities. Saying there’s no land and no availability is just a cop out,” he says.

“It’s the emptiest continent on the planet, we do have the land, it’s just a question of the choices you make.”

A softening in property values should be seen as a time to reflect and reconsider the type of people that the Coast needs to move forward.

“It was a decade ago when I released the Big Shift in 2001 and it was pretty much on the money, but we are in a different space and the Gold Coast should use this breather. It’s like the marathon. Don’t waste it. Start thinking strategically about how you can connect with an important value of the Australian people which is affordability,” he says.

“I’m a supporter of big Australia. We need a bigger Australia, a bigger Gold Coast and a bigger Brisbane in order to fund the effective retirement of the baby boomers.

“We have unfunded liability in providing pensions and quality of life for people that entered the workforce between 1966 and 1981.

This is the first wave of the baby boomers who weren’t saving though a superannuation fund or future fund or relying on taxpayers of the day to look after them. Well, that day has come and we need to grow the tax base.

“Either Gen X or Gen Y will pay more tax per capita and they aren’t going to be too happy to do that, or we need more per capitas, more people.”

The city also can’t afford to become too elitist, according to Salt.

“For a city that has 600,000 people heading for 1 million, you can’t have a city filled with 1 million rich people. Also need a requirement for the low income earners and I don’t see how we are providing for that at the moment. Society is made up of all kinds of people, not just the well to do,” he says.

“While there have been important social shifts to single person households, not everyone wants to live in a high-rise apartment. Queensland will be, and should be, judged not by how well we provide housing for the population rise but by how well we provide housing for average and below-average income Australians.”

So, where is the next big shift and who is expected to benefit?

Forget seachange and treechange, it’s mining change.

“In Queensland towns like Mackay, Gladstone and Townsville,” says Salt.

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