Photo: Andrew Perryman.

REGIONAL cities such as Bendigo, Ballarat and Geelong have a vital role to play in managing the state’s population growth according to a major report released by accounting firm Deloitte.

With Melbourne set to become Australia’s largest city within a decade and as Australia’s most liveable city, millions are expected to move to the state’s capital in coming decades, with Melbourne projected to be home to more than eight million people by 2051.

The analysis by Deloitte was part of a new initiative “It’s happening, Victoria”, where Deloitte Access Economics assessed how growth has affected Victorians’ ability to share in the benefits of growth, how growth has impacted the liveability of suburbs and regions, and the implications for how Victorians commute.

The report shows regional cities have a vital role as a third pillar in managing Victoria’s growing population with the larger regional cities scoring higher on liveability than the majority of Melbourne suburbs, with housing at a fraction of the cost.

Victoria’s larger regional cities are well supported and connected to critical economic infrastructure, including rail, roads, airport access, internet and mobile coverage.

Deloitte Access Economics partner Dr Daniel Terrill said the development of regional cities is not only good for the residents and workers of those cities, and the rural areas they serve, it relieves some of Melbourne’s growing pains as well.

“Regional city population growth, as part of a renewed emphasis on regional Victorian economic development and prosperity, should form a key pillar of any integrated planning strategy for Victoria’s population and economic future. However, promotion of long-term regional growth will require an integrated response from all levels of government and business.”

Deloitte managing partner, Victoria, Jeremy Cooper said the state’s economy is growing at a rapid pace – and this growth is driven primarily by population growth in Melbourne.

“While it presents us with tremendous opportunities – from increased market scale and diversity, competition and investment – it also brings challenges to the way Victorians live and share in the opportunities of growth.

“No other major city globally has navigated these combined challenges well. However, by repositioning Victoria’s growth model to manage population growth in a way that promotes economic and social participation and encourages greater liveability, we can be the first to do so.

The challenge ahead for us is real, but the opportunity is also there for the taking.”

Mr Cooper said two Melbournes were being created; where distance from the CBD is increasingly becoming the key socioeconomic divider.

“Melbourne’s outer suburbs have poorer access to jobs, lower female workforce participation, lower wages, longer commute times, lower amenity, and social infrastructure and services that severely lag behind residential growth.”