Perth has become the world's most sprawling city and needs to reimagine itself or its survival is at risk, a new book on the future of Australian cities warns.
Compiled by two Perth urban planners, Made in Australia warns the failure to allow medium and high- density housing in many suburbs threatens to consign millions of future residents to areas far from the city centre.
They say one solution may be a high-speed train from Geraldton to Busselton.
The book focuses on population projections from the Australian Bureau of Statistics that suggest the country will have 62.2 million people by 2101.
Perth's population is forecast to grow from 1.8 million to 4.2 million in the next four decades if high growth rates continue.
Authors Richard Weller and Julian Bolleter, from the Urban Design Research Centre at the University of WA, say Perth has an average density of six homes a hectare, making it the most sprawled city in Australia and, they argue, the world.
Assistant Professor Bolleter said without change, Perth faced a sprawl that posed huge questions about liveability and providing everyday services.
He said Perth would have about 4.2 million people by 2050 but if it kept growing, it could reach six or seven million.
"You then have to start thinking about the liveability of the city," Professor Bolleter said.
"We just can't keep sprawling. There are a lot of challenges in terms of Perth and we have to start thinking about them now."
The authors estimated that if Perth's population hit 4.2 million in the 2050s, about 1.3 million extra people would live in new areas outside the existing suburban fringe.
That would require about 576,000 houses covering 48,000ha.
Urban infill would be needed for the rest, meaning 618,000 apartments in thousands of multi-storey buildings.
The book identifies the biggest threat to Perth as its heavy reliance on finite minerals that ultimately leave it exposed financially.
Professors Weller and Bolleter argue that as part of reimagining its future, Perth planners had to think of connecting to a string of major centres from Geraldton to Busselton with high-speed rail."If Perth can make the leap from big city beyond a megacity and become a mega region, then there is scope for a really liveable community all along the west coast," Professor Bolleter said.
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