Shifting sands: ACT in 2041

In the next 20 years, Canberra is expected to grow radically. The growth of Gungahlin is slowing but the growth of the Molonglo Valley has just begun.


Update: 2041 in doubt and 2050 more likely

The available information for Molonglo 3 and the history of the Whitlam development would suggest that the 2041 date we have been given for the completion of the Molonglo Valley is very unlikely and 2050 seems more realistic. The exact date is not so important as to accept that it will take much longer than 2041. Read Molonglo 3 East: timeline uncertainty.


It is self-evident from the data provided on the YourSay ACT Planning System Review and Reform Project (accessed 28 May 2021) that The Molonglo Valley will grow faster than any other district. The projected population growth between 2020 and 2041 is shown below, with the districts ranked from most to least growth. Belconnen was the largest district in 2021 and will continue to grow strongly.

Population growth between 2020 and 2041 suburbs ranked from most to least growth
Population growth between 2020 and 2041 districts ranked from most to least growth. ACT Planning System Review and Reform Project, accessed 28 May 2021.

In 2041, Belconnen will be the largest district with 22% of Canberra’s 589,000 population. Tuggeranong and Gungahlin will come equal second with 17%. The Molonglo Valley will leap from 8th place to 5th. Over two thirds of Canberra’s population will live in Belconnen, Tuggeranong, Gungahlin, or Inner North districts.

Currently, the population of the Molonglo Valley is tiny, with only about 10% of its expected final population upon completion. The ACT Suburb Land Agency reported at the Molonglo Valley Community Forum meeting in March 2021 that the project was only 20% complete. Even then it will only represent 9% of Canberra’s population.

ACT population 2041
ACT population 2041. ACT Planning System Review and Reform Project, accessed 28 May 2021.

Canberra suffers from urban sprawl. Too many people live on the edges and most jobs in are in the centre of the city in the Inner South and Inner North. More jobs are found in the Inner South and Inner North than local residents. In the Inner South there are almost two jobs for every resident. The consequence is long distance commuting. Gungahlin Community Council is unhappy with the availability of work in the district, but it is not much worse than Belconnen and similar to Tuggeranong per head of local population. The worst served is the Molonglo Valley, but this can be expected to improve once the commercial centre is established.

district comparison of local jobs per population 2020 districts ranked
District comparison of local jobs per population 2020 districts ranked. ACT Planning System Review and Reform Project, accessed 28 May 2021.

The data analysed in this article is derived from a graphic found on the YouSay ACT Planning System Review and Reform Project, accessed 28 May 2021 (see below).

canberra stats in 2020
Canberra in 2020 and 2041. ACT Planning System Review and Reform Project, accessed 28 May 2021.

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