The Robina/Varsity Future: ‘It Doesn’t Come Any Better’ – Bernard Salt


Leading Australian futurist and demographer Bernard Salt has identified Robina and Varsity Lakes as the principal population growth, infrastructure and employment hub for Gold Coast City’s future, based on demographic modelling and data projections to the year 2050.

While Gold Coast City’s population is expected to double to 1.2 million by 2050, Mr Salt says much of the phenomenal growth will concentrate around the geographic heart of the city – primarily the area centred on Robina/Varsity.

He says the Gold Coast’s ‘linear’ form will result in more infill development in response to the city’s growing population – meaning that existing urban centres like Robina/Varsity will need to upscale in density to meet demand.

His projections, revealed today at a business breakfast at Bond University, show a total of 561,000 new residents will call Gold Coast City home by 2050, creating a need for an additional 230,000 dwellings.

“As the city grows, only about a third of Gold Coast City’s future population is expected to live outside the current urban footprint, and the balance – an additional 370,000 people – will be accommodated by infill development,” he said.

“When you take stock of the Gold Coast today, there are very few regions that can match Robina/Varsity’s capacity for growth and expansion -or its ability to provide diversity of housing and workspaces – with 50 hectares of approved developable land and a raft of key infrastructure and services already in place.

“This existing infrastructure will prove to be Robina/Varsity’s greatest asset, because future density requirements will effectively prohibit the development of new super regional shopping centres like Robina Town Centre, or universities on a similar scale to Bond – which is one of the fastest growing universities in Australia – forecast to grow by 125% by 2050. There will be no more. This is it.

“All the housing, the shops, the jobs, the health and other city centre infrastructure that pertains to the middle of the Gold Coast urban form will hold fast to the centrally located Robina/Varsity precinct.

“I am a believer in the Gold Coast. I am an optimist about the Gold Coast. Here is a place willed into existence by the Australian people and whose future growth is both assured and channelled by planning into an elongated urban form. With Robina in the middle. It doesn’t come any better for a locality.”

Mr Salt says planned infrastructure, including light and heavy rail links to connect Robina/ Varsity to the beaches and Gold Coast Airport will enhance Gold Coast City’s bid to become a ‘world city.’

“Robina/ Varsity is only 15 minutes from the airport, which offers a growing list of flight paths to major cities around the world, so it makes sense to offer a direct route to CBDRobina, considering its existing resources and potential for growth.

“Once this connection is complete, Robina/Varsity will have all the scaffolding in place to build on future population growth and be a major economic centre and a hub for employment creation.

In fact, Robina/Varsity lakes will be the highest contributor to the economic growth of Gold Coast City, with a projected $5.4 billion contribution, or 24.6% of the city’s Gross Regional Product Growth to 2050.”

Mr Salt says Robina/Varsity is ideally placed to offer the right mix of jobs and services to suit Gold Coast City’s changing demographic.

“Keeping pace with growth is important, but there’s a competitive advantage for regions that are also able to keep pace with change,” Mr Salt said.

“Demographic modelling suggests that between 2014 – 2024, there will be a huge spike in the number of aged people living in Gold Coast City (70 – 85 years), along with a sharp increase in the number of young teens (10 – 14 years) and young professionals (30-39 years).

“Research shows the major growth areas for employment in Gold Coast City over the past 15 years have been healthcare (700,000 new jobs) and professional services and sciences (400,000 new jobs), and this trend is expected to continue in line with the city’s demographic shift.

“Robina/Varsity’s health and knowledge precinct – including two major hospitals (and a third under construction), specialist medical practices and seven research centres – will provide a platform for Gold Coast City to continue to expand its services in these sectors to meet the needs of the future population.”

Independent property analysts Urbis Research have backed Mr Salt’s employment projections, underscoring Robina/Varsity’s position as a leader in professional services and health.

Urbis found that in total, Robina/ Varsity is expected to add an extra 29,085 full time equivalent (FTE) jobs by 2050, representing 16% per cent of the additional 181,661 FTE positions forecast for Gold Coast City over the next 35 years.

Urbis director Malcolm Aikman said Robina/Varsity’s professional services sector was expected to increase by 471 per cent to 2050, with health services to grow by 195 per cent over the same period.

“Our research shows that Robina/Varsity’s future job market will be led by professional, scientific and technical services, which will offer more than 6,300 FTE jobs in 2050, representing 15 per cent of this region’s employment,” he said.

“Health services will account for about 3,500 FTE jobs, or 8.5 per cent of Robina/Varsity employment.

“Robina/Varsity has prudently aligned itself with employment trends, cementing itself as a key business district well into the future.”

Published in The Urban Developer; Wednesday 24th February 2016

Click here for the pdf version of this article