Bernard Salt.
Bernard Salt. Contributed

Watch out world, the Ipswich ascendancy is coming

AT THE time of the 1954 Census Ipswich was regarded as a separate city to Brisbane. It contained 39,000 residents making it a bit bigger than Bendigo (37,000) and a bit smaller than Townsville (40,000). It was then the 15th biggest city in Australia.

In the intervening 65 years things have changed for Ipswich. The city has been subsumed within the greater amorphous mass of Brisbane although it has been able to retain its own identity via the City of Ipswich which now contains around 210,000 residents.

But arguably Ipswich is and always will be much more than a single municipality tacked onto the southwestern edge of Brisbane. It heads a grander and a vaster region extending towards but not including Toowoomba. Ipswich is an eclectic mix of mining community, military base, regional administration centre and focal point for an extensive first-home buying and treechange community.

Greater Ipswich contains around 350,000 residents and includes for example the expanding suburbs of Ripley Valley and treechange communities at Gatton.

I first visited Ipswich in 2000 when I was working on the masterplan for neighbouring Springfield. My assessment of the broader region hasn't changed. As Greater Brisbane grows from two million to three million and four million the metropolitan form will require a third corridor.

Big Australian cities of three-plus million have multiple corridors; Brisbane at two million has two corridors: north to Caboolture and south to Beenleigh. But as the city grows there will be increasing demand for near-city housing in a new 'third corridor' which I say is logically the southwest corridor now extending through Springfield and the Ripley Valley.

The logic, and the urban flow, of a third corridor for Brisbane is unstoppable. And especially with the completion of infrastructure projects like the suburban railway line extension and the Centenary Motorway extension through to Springfield. Infrastructure needs to 'go somewhere' and that somewhere beyond Springfield is Greater Ipswich.

Over 13 years to 2017 Greater Ipswich added 109,000 net extra residents. Over the following 13 years to 2030 this region is projected to add 211,000 residents. If you think Ipswich has been a focal point for growth over recent years, then I would say "you 'aint seen nothing yet". Ipswich is sitting at the pivot point between the third largest job market in Australia and one of the fastest growing places on the Australian continent.

By the state government's own population projections released in November there will be more people in every age group living in Greater Ipswich in 2030 than there is today. And this means there will be a need for more hospitals, primary schools, football grounds, shops, arts centres, bowling greens, university places. Everything must expand and all kinds of infrastructure needs to be added.

Most job growth in recent years in the Greater Ipswich region has focussed on health and education and construction, naturally enough. But the region falls below par when it comes to the addition of professional jobs-knowledge worker jobs-and which in turn suggests there is a need for further investment in tertiary education facilities that deliver graduates into the professions such as doctors, accountants, engineers, lawyers and IT professionals.

The great challenge for the Ipswich region is to imagine the kind of place and community that you want to be, and to pursue that aspiration, rather than merely react and respond to whatever is being delivered year by year.

Create a vision and pursue it; don't just muddle along. If ever there was a place on the Australian continent that needs to engage the community with future planning, it is Ipswich.

Minister, Ipswich is at the forefront of urban growth and development for a generation.

Minister, we have dream to create an aspirational, inclusive, supportive, self-contained community by 2030.

Minister, we the people of Ipswich don't want to commute to the Brisbane CBD as a matter of course and we most certainly don't want our kids to have to commute to Brisbane.

We believe that what we have to offer, or what we want to offer, can reset the bar of how life might be lived in urban Australia.

Ipswich is a diverse community, but we are united behind a common vision of the future that delivers an even better, an even stronger, community by 2030 that will attract residents, workers and investment from Brisbane and beyond.

Watch out world, the Ipswich ascendancy is coming.

Bernard Salt is managing director of The Demographics Group; bernard@tdgp.com.au