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Tasmania turning around its population woes

14 January 20160 comments

The Tasmanian curse of losing its population to other states has been reversed as new figures reveal a positive migration drift.

Data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) showed a net inflow of 158 people had moved from interstate to Tasmania in the June quarter after 16 consecutive yearly falls.

Tasmania's population growth is steadily increasing for the first time in almost two decades

Tasmania’s population growth is steadily increasing for the first time in almost two decades

About 300 people were leaving Tasmania every three months in past years, according to demographer Amina Keygan.

“Sometimes we have quite high losses, up around the 500 mark, that was 494 people left in the June quarter of 2013 but then we had in the March quarter of 2015 … a loss of 43 people,” Ms Keygan said.

“What these figures might be starting to signify is that whilst we might still be having a previous history of losses, the rate of those losses is actually slowing and has now changed to a gain and so if that upward trajectory of net interstate migration can continue, then that will be some really positive news for Tasmania in the future.”

Ms Keygan said there were several factors believed to be driving the turnaround.

“Job gains in Tasmania as well as an increased confidence in investment in Tasmania as well as the population strategies that the current Government has begun implementing,” Ms Keygan said.

The State Government said the figures were a sign that Tasmania is becoming a better place to live.

Deputy Premier Jeremy Rockliff said it was proof the state was turning its fortunes around.

“Our population is growing at the fastest rate in four years … because the economy is growing, jobs are being created, confidence is soaring and people are realising that Tasmania is the place to be,” he said.

The Government has set a target of raising Tasmania’s population to 650,000 by 2050; that is an extra 4,000 people every year.

The figures show Tasmania still has the nation’s slowest population growth rate.

It also has the oldest median age of 42 years, compared to the national average of 37.

Last year a State budget estimates hearing was told of dire consequences if population targets were not met.

It heard that on some projections the population was expected to go into decline by the middle of the century.

“If our population goes into population decline, that potentially creates what they refer to as the ‘death spiral’ circumstance where the capacity of the population to be able to support essential services becomes so compromised that it causes people to leave and so therefore you go into permanent decline,” said Growth Minister Matthew Groom.

Demographers estimate that the number of people under 50 needs to increase by 15 per cent a year to meet the goal.

Mr Groom said the figure of an extra 4000 people a year was achievable if a range of measures were taken.

“There are lots of things that we’ve got to do if we’re to tackle it,” he said.

“We’ve got to better market ourselves; we’ve got to better engage with expat communities, we’ve got to better support migrant communities.”

He also identified working with the University of Tasmania to attract more international students.

“There are lots of aspects to the population challenge but I do make the point that the potential pressures that are going to emerge in the major cities along the eastern seaboard present an opportunity for Tasmania.”


Laurie Nowell
AMES Australia Senior Journalist