MELBOURNE is officially Australia's fastest growing capital city, according to data released last week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) that shows the city growing by 2.1 per cent in 2014-15, down slightly from 2.2 per cent last year, but still higher than the next-fastest growing capital, Darwin (1.9 per cent).
Perth, which has been one of the fastest-growing capital cities since the mid-2000s, grew by 1.6 per cent in 2014-15 (down from 1.9 per cent last year) and now sits equal fourth with Brisbane, behind Sydney (1.7 per cent).
"Although Perth's growth slowed to its lowest rate since 2004-05, it was not the only city to experience weaker growth," said ABS Director of Demography, Beidar Cho.
"Of all the capitals, only Hobart (0.8 per cent), Canberra (1.4 per cent) and Darwin (1.9 per cent) grew faster in 2014-15 than in the previous year".
Australia's capital cities accounted for the vast majority (83 per cent) of the nation's total population growth in 2014-15, with most growth occurring in outer suburban and inner city areas.
The fastest growing areas in each state and territory were Cobbitty - Leppington (New South Wales), Cranbourne East (Victoria), Pimpama (Queensland), Munno Para West - Angle Vale (South Australia), North Coogee (Western Australia), Rokeby (Tasmania), Palmerston - South (Northern Territory), and ACT - South West (Australian Capital Territory).
Sydney on target to reach five million this year
Sydney is well on track to becoming the first Australian capital city to reach 5 million people, according to the ABS data.
In the twelve months to June 2015, Sydney's population grew by 83,300 to reach 4.92 million, increasing by 1,600 people per week.
"Should this amount of growth continue in 2015-16, we would expect Sydney's population to hit 5 million sometime this year", said Ms Cho.
Most of Sydney's growth in 2014-15 occurred in the outer suburbs and around the city centre. Waterloo - Beaconsfield, in the inner-city, had the largest growth of all areas in the state, increasing by 3,100 people in 2014-15.
Cobbitty - Leppington, in the outer south-west, had the fastest growth rate, up by 26 per cent. It also had the second-highest growth (up by 2,600 people), ahead of Homebush Bay - Silverwater (2,400) and Parklea - Kellyville Ridge (1,700).
Outside of Sydney, areas with the largest growth in 2014-15 were Maitland - West in the Hunter Valley (up by 660 people) and Wollongong (590).
Eight of the ten most densely populated areas in Australia were located in Sydney, with the top five located around the CBD. Pyrmont - Ultimo had the highest population density in the country (15,100 people per square km).
Melbourne has the largest and fastest population increase
Melbourne had both the largest and fastest population increase of all Australian capital cities in 2014-15, according to the ABS data.
The population of Melbourne increased by 91,600 in 2014-15, an average of 1,760 people per week. Sydney had the next biggest increase (83,300), followed by Brisbane (35,200) and Perth (31,100).
Melbourne's growth rate of 2.1 per cent, although down slightly from 2.2 per cent last year, was still the fastest in Australia, ahead of Darwin (1.9 per cent), Sydney (1.7 per cent), Perth and Brisbane (both 1.6 per cent).
Ms Cho said that Melbourne's outer suburbs had some of the largest growth in Australia, with seven out of the country's top ten growth areas located in Greater Melbourne.
Cranbourne East in Melbourne's outer south-east increased by 4,600 people in 2014-15, the largest growth of any area in Australia. The outer northern areas of South Morang (up by 4,200 people) and Epping (3,300) came in second and third respectively, whilst Point Cook (3,200) in Melbourne's outer west ranked fourth nationally.
Cranbourne East also had the fastest growth in the state (and the second-fastest nationally), increasing by 32 per cent in 2014-15.
In addition to the growth areas on the outer suburban fringes, large population increases were also seen in the inner-city area of Melbourne (up by 2,600 people) and nearby Southbank (1,300). Docklands was the fastest-growing inner city area, up 8.3 per cent in 2014-15.
Outside of Melbourne, areas with the largest growth in 2014-15 were Grovedale (up by 1000 people) in Geelong and Ocean Grove - Barwon Heads (700) on the Surf Coast.
Queensland's growth spreads beyond the capital
Brisbane's population may be increasing at its slowest rate for over a decade, but Queensland has some of the largest-growing regional areas in the nation, according to the data.
Brisbane's population grew by 1.6 per cent in 2014-15, down slightly from 1.7 per cent last year – on par with Perth (1.6 per cent), but behind Melbourne (2.1 per cent), Darwin (1.9 per cent) and Sydney (1.7 per cent).
In comparison, the population in the rest of Queensland grew by 1.0 per cent. This was the fastest growth rate of all rest of state regions, ahead of rest of New South Wales (0.8 per cent) and Victoria (0.6 per cent).
Ms Cho said that compared with the other Australian states, Queensland had a notably higher proportion (40 per cent) of its population growth occurring outside of its capital city.
"Five of the top ten largest-growing areas in Queensland were outside of Greater Brisbane", said Ms Cho.
These included Upper Coomera - Willow Vale on the Gold Coast, which had the largest growth (up 1,500 people) of any area outside of Australia's capital cities, Deeragun (1,300) in northern Queensland and Pimpama (1,000) also on the Gold Coast.
Pimpama was also the fastest-growing area in Queensland and the fastest-growing outside any Australian capital city, up 20 per cent in 2014-15.
North Lakes - Mango Hill was both the largest and fastest-growing area within Greater Brisbane, up by 2,500 people (9.7 per cent) in 2014-15.
Adelaide growing around the fringe
The ABS data shows that while Adelaide's outer suburbs may be experiencing the largest population increases, some of the city's fastest growth is occurring in its inner areas.
Seaford, a coastal suburb in Adelaide's south, had the largest increase in population in 2014-15 (up by 760 people), followed by Northgate - Oakden - Gilles Plains (640) and Munno Para West - Angle Vale (560), both to the city's north.
While Munno Para West - Angle Vale had the fastest growth in the state (5.7 per cent), several inner-city areas had growth rates well above the state average. These included Walkerville (3.7 per cent) in the inner north, Adelaide city (3.0 per cent) and Beverley (2.8 per cent) in the inner west.
Ms Cho said that compared with most other capital cities, Adelaide's population is growing at a slower rate, a trend which has been evident for the past decade.
"Adelaide's population increased by 0.9 per cent in 2014-15", she said, adding that only Hobart (0.8 per cent) had a slower rate of population growth.
Of the areas outside of Adelaide, Murray Bridge and Victor Harbor recorded the largest growth in 2014-15 (both up by 230 people), while Moonta on the Yorke Peninsula had the fastest growth (up 2.3 per cent).
Perth's population surge eases
Perth's growth has slowed to its lowest rate for a decade, with an increase of 1.6 per cent in 2014-15, down from 1.9 per cent in 2013-14.
"Perth now ranks equal fourth with Brisbane, behind Melbourne (2.1 per cent), Darwin (1.9 per cent) and Sydney (1.7 per cent)", Ms Cho said.
The largest growth in 2014-15 occurred in the outer suburban areas of Perth, such as Baldivis in the south-west (up by 2,800 people) and Forrestdale - Harrisdale - Piara Waters in the south-east (2,600).
North Coogee was the fastest-growing area in Perth, increasing by 23 per cent to 1,700 people, followed by Forrestdale - Harrisdale - Piara Waters (20 per cent).
Outside of Perth, many regions experienced population decline. However the areas to record the highest growth were Busselton (up by 620 people) and Australind - Leschenault (610), both in the state's south-west.
Hobart at the core of Tasmania's growth
Hobart is the only Australian capital city to record an increasing rate of population growth in each of the past three years, according to the ABS data.
Although growing at the slowest rate of all capital cities (0.8 per cent in 2014-15), Hobart's growth rate has been steadily increasing since 2012-13, and is up from 0.6 per cent in 2013-14.
"While the majority (57 per cent) of Tasmanians live outside the state capital, Hobart's population is growing faster than the rest of the state," Ms Cho said.
"The five areas with the fastest growth in 2014-15 were all located in Hobart", she said.
These included the eastern area of Rokeby (up by 2.8 per cent), Old Beach - Otago (2.5 per cent) and Kingston Beach - Blackmans Bay (2.1 per cent).
Kingston Beach - Blackmans Bay and Rokeby also had the largest growth in 2014-15, up by 220 and 160 people respectively.
Outside of Hobart, Riverside in Launceston had the largest population growth in 2014-15 (up by 80 people), while Quoiba - Spreyton, just south of Devonport, recorded the fastest growth (up by 1.6 per cent).
Darwin remains as one of the fastest growing capital cities
Darwin remained one of the fastest-growing capital cities in Australia, with a population increase of 1.9 per cent in 2014-15 (up from 1.6 per cent last year), second only to Melbourne (2.1 per cent).
Ms Cho said that newer residential developments, such as those in the satellite city of Palmerston, contributed to Darwin's strong growth.
"Palmerston - South recorded the fastest growth in the Territory, up by 22 per cent in 2014-15", she said.
Other areas to experience fast growth included Howard Springs (up 17 per cent) and Darwin City (9.5 per cent).
Howard Springs also recorded the largest growth in the Territory in 2014-15, increasing by 810 people, followed by Darwin City (530) and Weddell (250).
For the second consecutive year, the population outside of Greater Darwin declined, by 1.6 per cent.
ACT's south-west has fastest growth in Australia
The newly-developed suburbs of Canberra's Molonglo Valley are the fastest-growing areas in the country, according to the ABS data.
The population of ACT - South West, which includes the new suburbs of Wright and Coombs, grew by 127 per cent in 2014-15, to reach 3,600 people. This far exceeded Australia's next-fastest growing area, Cranbourne East (up 32 per cent) in Melbourne.
ACT - South West was also the largest-growing area in the ACT, increasing by 2,000 people in 2014-15.
However, Ms Cho said that most of Canberra's growth is still concentrated in the city's northern region, particularly around Gungahlin and in the inner northern suburbs.
"The population of the northern region increased by 5,100 in 2014-15, compared to 230 for the southern region," she said.
Nine of the top ten largest-growing areas were in the north, including Harrison (up by 1,600 people), Crace (810), Ngunnawal (590), Casey and Franklin (both 520), all in Gungahlin.
Photo: 'Australia seen from space at night' / Craig Mayhew and Robert Simmon, NASA/GSFC / Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.