Australians hit the beach in third cultural wave

AUSTRALIANS are leaving the suburbs and heading to town or the beach, according to KPMG partner Bernard Salt. Indeed, it is the basis of his book The Big Shift – Welcome to the third Australian Culture.

Mr Salt, speaking in Perth at a recent business lunch, argues that the move towards inner city and beachside living is creating the third Australian culture.

His theory is borne out by the fact that Busselton is Australia’s fastest growing town.

The first Australian culture was bush living. In 1901 52 per cent of Australia’s population was based in rural areas. A century later the bush was home to just 18 per cent of Australia’s population, while 58 per cent was living in the suburbs.

Mr Salt said besides the beachside rush, Australians were moving back to the inner-city areas to live.

Melbourne has been leading that trend with 8,616 residents living within five kilometres of the CBD. Perth is ranked fifth with just 756 inner-city residents – however, that is up 426 from the previous year.

Mr Salt described Perth as a “20th century suburban city with suburban values”. He said cities such as Melbourne and Sydney were more prone to inner-city living because they had been designed around 19th century terraced housing, while Perth’s inner and near-city housing was based around the suburban model.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Wanneroo was WA’s fastest growing council area – ranked 10th in Australia.

Mr Salt said this showed the emerging trend towards beachside living.

“Wanneroo’s place in the list shows the Australian liking for suburban living,” he said.

Pro Property principal Brett Wilkins said he agreed with Mr Salt’s thesis – to a point.

“I think WA has just lagged behind the rest of Australia in terms of inner-city living,” he said.

“You can make all the reasons why Sydney and Melbourne have inner-city living and Perth doesn’t.

“One of the main reasons [given] is traffic congestion.

“But have a look at Adelaide. It is ranked fourth after Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane with 1,479 inner-city residents. But Adelaide doesn’t have any traffic problems.”

Mr Wilkins said that, due to a tightening of finances, inner-city development had become harder in Perth following the boom the city enjoyed in the late 1990s.

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