Ballarat - Growing and Spending

Ballarat is one of the newest members of the Spendmapp club: made up of local governments around Australia who subscribe to Spendmapp, our bank transaction application.

Ballarat was also in the Age newspaper news recently. It was part of a discussion about how growth rates in outer metropolitan Melbourne (council areas like Wyndham) are outstripping everywhere in rural and regional Victoria.

True as that is, regional cities with good access back to Melbourne are growing nonetheless. Ballarat added almost 2,000 residents to its estimated resident population between 2016 and 2017 and over the last 26 years, around 26,000 residents (a 33% increase). While this does pale in comparison with growth in the western outer metropolitan City of Wyndham (178,000 new residents from 1997 to 2017 - a 212% increase – see Figure 1), the comparisons are not that useful. Ballarat was established as an urban area during Victoria’s Gold Rush of the 1850s (albeit gazetted as a City a little later). Over time growth rates in most towns and cities slow down. There’s an entire dense and comprehensive book that discusses this (the New Science of Cities by Michael Batty).  Wyndham, by contrast, was largely rural in character until well after World War Two (apart from the town of Werribee). Even if it were not on the edge of Australia’s fastest growing metropolitan area, it would be growing rapidly.

Figure 1 – Ballarat’s Population Growth 1991-2017

Figure 1 – Ballarat’s Population Growth 1991-2017

More to the point, while Ballarat may not be growing that rapidly, there are indications its economy is. Spendmapp data shows total increase in spending over the last year of around 5.5% (compared with 1.9% for population growth). Even accounting for inflation, spending is growing at a faster rate than the population. Figure 2 show the components of spending. We can see some of that growth is down to increased visitor spending. And if we look more closely we see its mostly in dining and entertainment spending. Essentially Ballarat is a regional city servicing a slowly growing hinterland. The story we wrote a few months back about the impact of the AFL games in Ballarat is evidence of this growth.

Figure 2 – Monthly Expenditure in and from Ballarat Dec-16 to Mar-18

Figure 2 – Monthly Expenditure in and from Ballarat Dec-16 to Mar-18

So, while growth is not as rapid in our regional cities, they are effectively alternative city centres to much of rural and regional Australia. This is not an assertion based on presumption, or even occasional surveys. It is an assertion based on irrefutable data. 

Kevin Johnson