Australia's new population hotspots

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Populations in Australia's major cities have continued to swell along the coasts, as regional areas continue to dwindle, a recent analysis shows.

Overall, Australia is still growing, with 389,300 new residents added to the population in the 12 months to September 2008. But an analysis by RP Data last week shows much of that growth is confined to very limited parts of the country.

Melbourne and Sydney showed the largest number change in residents between 2007 and 2008, at 75,000 and 55,000 new residents each respectively. That's also meant these cities have been getting denser.

"Increasing population densities are a natural evolution of strong population growth and diminishing land supplies, so it is no surprise to find the inner city council areas of Sydney and Melbourne to recording the highest population densities," said Tim Lawless,  national research director for RP Data.

Waverley, Sydney and North Sydney rounded out the highest three population densities in Australia. Nine of the top ten were within the Sydney LGA.

But other capitals also had some good news from the analysis. Brisbane showed the most consistent growth, with an average 2.3% increase of new residents each year over the past five years. Perth and Darwin showed the most single year population growth, both at 2.8% between 2007 and 2008.

While population growth naturally leads to increased demand in a particular housing market, Lawless cautioned that it doesn't also always mean there will be capital growth of a similar scale. Other factors also need to be in play.

"We have found that very desirable suburbs often record very low rates of capital growth due to a lack of available land supply or restrictive zoning that prevents higher density developments," said Lawless.

Some regional areas showed some growth, however, Of these, Ballarat, VIC, at 2.0%; Gympie, QLD, at 2.4%; and Lockyer Valley, QLD, 3.3%; increased by the highest percentages between 2007 and 2008, according to RP Data. Lawless said much of the regional growth was due to either the convergence of residents from other smaller towns, or an increase in city slickers looking for a more affordable and relaxed rural lifestyle.

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