As urban sprawl spreads across once pristine areas of Australia, the population debate is hitting home for more people, reports PJ Madam.
By
Peta Jane Madam

26 Oct 2011 - 7:47 PM  UPDATED 24 Feb 2015 - 5:07 PM

When your backyard opens onto the bush, you don't want to lose it.

Janet Harwood is a migrant fearful of what she sees as a new philosophy - over-development - and population growth at any cost.

"If the majority (of) the world's population is going to live in urban areas in the future we need to start protecting areas of existing forest now", she says.

Originally from India, Janet knows overpopulation. Convinced that stronger and fairer planning laws to stop the bulldozing of forests, for new homes and more people across the highway, is the answer.

The Minister for Population and the Environment says there are plenty of challenges to be faced.

"There are examples of good planning at a local government at a state level, there are also examples of appalling planning", Minister Tony Burke says.

Population growth affects the environment, jobs, housing, transport, roads and infrastructure.

Nine in ten of us live along the coast, and are feeling the squeeze.

"The things that you need to do about population growth … are the things that politicians should do anyway", says economics expert Dr Oliver Marc Hartwich.

"It is quite tragic, I mean you see what other countries are achieving in very short periods of time - building new underground lines, building new high speed rail lines. And we are still dealing and arguing endlessly over four kilometres of railway land in Sydney, I mean it's ridiculous."

Australia's 22. 7 million population is growing at a rate of 1.6 per cent.

Since fertility and mortality are difficult to change, some believe the answer lies in lowering migration, currently set at just over 168,000 each year.

" I would like to see our humanitarian intake doubled... but I would think our immigration should be about 70 or 80,000 a year", entrepreneur Dick Smith says.

COUNTRY OF IMMIGRATION

After riots on the Gold fields came the infamous White Australia policy to limit numbers.

After losing more than 100,000 people to two world wars, the government launched it's first migration program - "Populate or Perish" - concerned with having enough numbers to repel an invasion.

Then, more than a decade later, came the 'Bring out a Briton' programme - better known as the "10 pound pommies".

Since 1945 Australia's multicultural policy has welcomed in more than seven million migrants: A number still rising.

At least one in every four Australians was born overseas.

Today, our biggest numbers of arrivals are from India, closely followed by the Chinese. From cross the Tasman are New Zealanders in third, then In fourth place - the British. Next, the Koreans.

Many insist that cutting migration will hurt the economy.

"We have massive labour shortages in Australia at the moment...We've got a pipeline of hundreds of billions of dollars of new investment that's looking for workers that's able to get it off the ground", Hartwich says.

But according to businessman Dick Smith, we're not very far away from trouble.

"Because you can not sustain perpetual growth in the uses of resources and energy - it's a finite world."

The Harwoods would agree with that.

Non-app viewers - Check out Peta Jane's web extra below, specifically on the environmental concerns of Janet Harwood and her daughter.