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Tasmania needs to attract more migrants

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Hobart400.jpgThe Property Council says that Tasmania should be aiming to attract a further 34,000 residents by 2022 to ensure the state’s economic renaissance continues.

Brian Wightman, the council’s Tasmanian executive director said the target figure should be 552,500 residents — based on an Australian average growth rate of 1.6% and a base of 518,500 — and could done by targeting working-age interstate and international migrants to drive economic and social improvements.

Mr Wightman said whichever party forms government after the coming state election needs to establish “an ambitious and intermediate” population target for the next four years.

The Liberal Government’s population growth strategy aims to increase the state’s population to 650,000 by 2050, but Mr Wightman said establishing an intermediate target would provide impetus for implementing the existing one.

“The incoming state government needs to set a population target for 2022, and enact a range of strategies, including investing in growth,”.

“Working-age interstate and international migrants must be our target market with their ability to drive economic and social improvement the key to our future.”

When the Liberals announced the target of 650,000 in 2014, both Labor and the Greens both said they would not be putting target figures on the state’s future population.

Last year, Tasmania’s population grew at its fastest rate in six years but it still lags behind the national average.

Demographer Lisa Denny says significant planning and investment will be needed to turbocharge the growth.

“There are two main contributors to population growth in Tasmania — migration and natural increase,” she said.

“Both of those are influenced by two things, one is the economic performance of the state and how it compares to the rest of Australia and the other is the size of the reproductive cohort.

“To get to where we want to be will actually require significant planning and investment in a range of factors and this won’t be easy to achieve.

“Yes you want migrants, but you also want them of the right age profile to contribute to natural increase.”

Ms Denny said going after interstate and international migrants would help the state deal with its skill shortages but it needed to be targeted to provide the services that the state needed.

Founding member of the Migrant Resource Centre Ike Naqvi — who came to Tasmania in the 1960s to study geology but has gone on to become a business leader — agreed that the state should be targeted in who it tries to attract.

“I absolutely agree in bringing in skilled migrants,” he said. “But we need to make sure there are jobs for them, we need to have those structures in place.

“We need to look at those areas where the skills are needed, such as IT.”

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