By ERWIN CHLANDA
The Alice Springs Regional Land Use Plan, currently up as a discussion paper for public comment, will consider implications arising from, and plan for, two population thresholds: 32,000 and 40,000.
The Planning Commission quotes NT Department of Treasury and Finance projections of an average annual growth rate of 1.7% between 2016 and 2021 and 1.5% between 2021 and 2026.
On those figures the current “estimated resident population” of 28,667 would grow to about 33,500 in the next 10 years.
Another factor is that 4653 people – more than 18% of the people counted on 2011 census night – were non-residents. These would include tourists and visitors from surrounding communities.
“Such a transient movement of people presents a number of challenges,” says the paper released by the commission.
“Demand for housing, including temporary and emergency housing, is one, as well as the demand for adequate human – especially health services.
“The location of such services is a matter for debate, potentially in the CBD, but alternatively close to or within the Community Living Areas (town camps).
“Overall, these demographic factors highlight that Alice Springs has a highly mobile population with an increasing proportion of Indigenous people. A key reason for this may be to access services provided in the town, with Alice Springs a key service centre for a wide catchment area.”
The paper says there was a period of population decline between 2001 and 2006, followed by a 5% increase over the next five years.
Between 2001 and 2011, the indigenous population increased by 10.3 % whilst the non-indigenous population declined by 11.6%.
The number and proportion of jobs in retail, property services and transport / warehousing are declining, says the paper, whilst the number and proportion of jobs in public administration, defence and the health sector are increasing.
“It is not expected that new economic sectors will emerge, however health, mining and tourism are forecast to grow, with a number of new and/or prospective projects identified.
“A number of vacant shops and commercial premises exist in the CBD, especially on Todd Street.
“Vacancies have the potential to be minimised as place-making strategies which seek to increase the vibrancy and appeal of the town centre are implemented, e.g. pop-up shops, cafés or other food and beverage businesses, temporary season activation, galleries to encourage local artists, community uses.
“It is important to note that traditional retailing is being impacted on by the growth of on-line shopping. It is projected that 15% of total retail sales will be transacted online within the next decade. This will reduce the growth theoretical demand for additional retail floorspace.
“Any substantive growth in retail floor space is likely to only occur as a response to future population growth. As future population growth is projected to be slow, based on historic trends and current projections, the area of new land required for retail, as part of this planning period, is not likely to be significant.”
As “there is no guarantee that current owners wish to develop” any new large industrial activity may need to be at Brewer Estate, some 25 kms to the south of town.
Residential realestate in Alice has gone through the roof even more than in Darwin: “It is evident that sale prices for dwellings in Alice Springs have increased much faster than incomes,” says the paper.
“Land prices have increased by over 80% between 2006 and 2011, dwelling and unit prices have increased by – respectively – 66% and 70%. Incomes have increased by 37%.
Despite repeated demands from local community leaders the draft does not assume new sources of water will be found – nor even explored for: “The majority of groundwater in the Amadeus Basin Aquifers for use as public water supply.”
There seem to be no suggestion for an expanded agricultural industry.
“Due to the non-renewable nature of the water supply, water sensitive urban design should be of high consideration when developing in the Alice Springs region,” says the document.
IMAGE from the report draft.