MELBOURNE — Melbourne would be Australia’s largest city by the mid-2030s, data released on Thursday revealed.

The release from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) said that the value of building work done in Victoria rose more than 9 percent in 12 months to March 2017 to USD 8.39 billion while the value of work done in the rest of Australia dropped 7.2 percent.

In total, there were 12.1 percent more building projects being undertaken in Victoria in March 2017 compared to March 2016.

Tim Pallas, Victoria’s Treasurer, said that the government would spend an average of USD 7.2 billion on infrastructure projects over the next four years to accommodate Melbourne’s rapidly expanding population.

“We continue to see the positive results of our agenda for infrastructure over the past three budgets with record investment focused on what’s most important to our cities, towns and communities,” Pallas told reporters on Thursday.

Bernard Salt, one of Australia’s leading demographers, in a regular column for Australia’s national newspaper, said that at the current rate of growth Melbourne could overtake Sydney as Australia’s largest city as early as 2031.

“Sydney’s (population) lead is now closer to 350,000 but is narrowing at a rate of 20,000 a year. If present rates were to continue Melbourne would replace Sydney as Australia’s largest city at some point in the 2030s,” Salt said.

“Melbourne offers what Sydney cannot or will not offer: access to affordable housing on the urban fringe.”

Jeff Kennett, Victoria’s premier from 1992 to 1999, formulated a plan that predicted Melbourne’s population would hit 5 million in 2030 at the earliest but Salt said the population will hit that mark around 2021.

The western suburbs of Melbourne shape as the major growth corridor, Salt said, with the Wyndham and Melton regions surpassing the Gold Coast as Australia’s fastest growing areas.

Wyndham and Melton added 35,000 new residents between them in Financial Year 2016, accounting for a third of all Melbourne’s growth.

In addition to housing affordability, Salt said much of Melbourne’s growth could be attributed to the booming employment, with Victoria adding 115,600 jobs in 12 months to April 2017, more than all other Australian states combined.

Salt said that by the time Melbourne hit 8 million residents, predicted to be around 2050, the city would be an urban sprawl comparable to the city of Dallas-Fort Worth in the United States.

“Perhaps a better benchmark for Melbourne at 8 million isn’t LA but the dual city of Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW), where the two hubs are separated by 50 kilometers of freeway. The DFW canvas also stretches 100 km and it contains two of America’s leading growth areas, Collin and Denton counties, which offer growth comparable to the edges of Melbourne,” he said.

He said that Sydney’s future could resemble a New York-style corporate city.

“Sydney might have more corporate head offices than Melbourne, just as New York might offer more corporate head offices than DFW.”

“But the housing and jobseeker market most readily gravitates to cities that deliver housing affordability combined with access to a capital city job market. And that is precisely what Melbourne is doing better than Sydney in the 21st century.” (Xinhua)

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