Planning for population growth: forecasting tool for governments and utilities

Unitywater operates in one of the fastest developing regions in Australia. The population of the region is expected to grow by 63 per cent in the next 25 years. To meet the requirements of this challenge of projected population and employment growth, Unitywater must be smart in developing tools for infrastructure planning to support the efficient delivery of network infrastructure.

Infrastructure Australia in its Future Cities Planning for our growing population report from February 2018 identified that “while the effects of population growth within Australia’s largest cities will be experienced incrementally over the coming 30 years, many of the key decisions required to successfully cater for change are happening right now. We must ensure that Australia’s governments are equipped with the necessary tools and processes to deliver the planning, policy, regulation and funding required to successfully respond to the population growth.”

Many of the report findings support Unitywater’s approach to planning for population and employment growth namely:

  • Unplanned growth delivers the worst outcomes for Australia’s fastest growing cities
  • The need to use existing infrastructure in our cities more efficiently
  • As demand increases, coordinating and prioritising additional or upgraded infrastructure between and within governments
  • Well-planned infrastructure to service employment centres enhances the job accessibility of our cities and can deliver national benefits

Demand modelling, forecasting and tracking
One of the key tools developed by Unitywater to forecast growth and infrastructure demand is its Demand Modeller and Tracking Tool (DMaTT). The purpose of the project was to develop and implement an automated demand modelling, forecasting and tracking tool at Unitywater that was credible, consistent, transparent and repeatable.

The project was initiated in 2012 and was developed in-house with the assistance of software vendor Sizztech and was deployed in early 2014.

The DMaTT tool allows the forecasting of future dwelling, population, gross floor area, employment and infrastructure demand growth at a property level that can be summarised and displayed at any catchment scale (i.e. locality, transport zone or watersupply catchment).

Figure 1

DMaTT also has the ability to run more than one forecast model based on “what if” scenarios with changed growth or development density parameters. For example, changes to planning scheme zonings or regional growth boundaries can be modelled to examine the quantum of additional growth, infrastructure demand and the impact on the timing of growth.

Unitywater has published a range of layers developed using DMaTT to a mapping portal, allowing planners and engineers to access growth forecasts and view the type, scale, location and timing of growth and land requirements for development (Figure1).

The key information inputs into DMaTT forecast models include baseline land use, development approvals, development constraints, planning scheme density provisions, State Government population projections and gross floor area projections.

Figure 2 is a graphical representation of how the DMaTT tool constructs forecast models. The DMaTT tool has a number of key innovations that benefit town planners and engineers undertaking

Figure 2

infrastructure planning:

  • Demographic and network demand forecasts are undertaken as part of one forecast model ensuring alignment between forecast growth and infrastructure demand
  • Forecast models are automated and configurable within a user friendly website interface as shown in Figure 3
  • An unlimited range of growth forecasts and different development scenarios can be examined to produce property level
    demographic and network demand forecasts within a short time frame (5-7 days for a large council area)
  • Network demand generation rates can be set for specific land use and development areas for any infrastructure network (i.e.
    water demand, trip generation, electricity demand) allowing the development of detailed and consistent demand forecasts
    across infrastructure networks
  • Property level demographic and network demand forecasts are exported as a spatial layer allowing the forecasts to be used by
    network modelling packages and viewed as mapping layers
  • The use of Bayesian Network (BN) for predicting the sequence of development and growth based upon a range of criteria that
    influences the probability of development (i.e. vacant land, development yield, proximity to infrastructure)

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Planning for Queensland networks

Figure 3

DMaTT demand forecasts are currently being utilised in network and capital works planning across Sunshine Coast and Moreton Bay Regional Councils, and Noosa Shire Council areas. In addition, DMaTT demographic forecasts have been utilised by Noosa Shire Council as the source of planning assumptions for their Local Government Infrastructure Plan.

The DMaTT tool is also being used as a tool for planning students at the University of the Sunshine Coast. Students undertaking ENP336 Strategic Infrastructure Planning have been able to merge their studies with industry-specific information and solve problems using a simplified version of Unitywater’s DMaTT tool to examine alternative growth and development scenarios within a study area and the impact on existing and planned infrastructure.

USC Town Planning Program Coordinator, Nicholas Stevens, said the software and course mentoring by Unitywater Planner Chris Teitzel, and delivery by Nicholas Patorniti had been invaluable.

“Using the software during their studies means students have an early introduction to real-life programs used in this industry and real issues that may arise,” Mr Stevens said.

“Working with a large business like Unitywater is hugely valuable for our students and establishing these types of infrastructure and technology industry relationships is what makes our Planning Program unique.”

Sizztech Managing Director, Bradley Rasmussen, said the company was delighted to collaborate with Unitywater and the university.

“The Forecaz Modeller software is a revolutionary tool and it’s pleasing to see USC take an innovative approach to exposing the students to these new technologies and processes as part of this course,” Mr Rasmussen said.

“Industry will welcome USC’s addition of this course to its curriculum, providing graduates with core competencies in strategic infrastructure planning.”

1 Comment
  1. […] Full article available at Infrastructure Magazine June 2018, p44-45 […]

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