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Australian cities among the largest and least densely settled in the world

Australian cities are among both the very largest by size and the least densely settled in the world, according to think tank Demographia’s annual World Urban Areas survey of the size, population and density of every urban agglomeration in the world with a population of more than 500,000 people.

The authors of the report acknowledge the difficulty in fairly identifying where a city begins and ends. The survey does not employ the political or legal definitions of a city, but rather a single, continuous built-up area or a single employment area.

Melbourne, Australia’s largest urban area geographically with a population just over four million, occupies the 32nd largest area in the world at 2,453 square kilometres, making it larger than London, home to 10.4 million people, and Mexico City, with 20.4 million residents. Melbourne ranks as the 955th most densely populated city out of the 1,040 on the Demographia list, with approximately 1,500 people per square kilometre. Melbourne shares its position on the density table with the Californian cities of Fresno, Sacramento and Bakersfield.

Australia’s most populous city, Sydney, is 43rd in terms of the size of its urban footprint, at 2,037 square kilometres. It is also the country’s most dense, with 1,900 people per square kilometre, although internationally it ranks among the least densely populated cities in the world at 955.

Brisbane is the least densely populated state capital in Australia at 996th place, nestled between Buffalo, New York and Tampa–St. Petersburg, Florida on the density table. The Gold Coast is the least densely populated major city in Australia, at 1,003.

Different governments in Australia have attempted to address low housing intensity in recent years. The Victorian government’s Plan Melbourne 2017 refresh placed emphasis on densifying Melbourne’s middle suburbs by relaxing planning regulations, while the NSW government recently announced the winners of a “missing middle” architectural design competition that hoped to encourage intelligent, attractive design for medium-density dwellings.

Elsewhere in the report, the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka is the most densely populated urban area in the world, with 45,700 people per square kilometre. The Tokyo–Yokohama urban area is the largest in the world by population, with 37.9 million residents, while the the agglomeration centred on New York City is the largest in terms of geographic area, at 11,875 square kilometres. Los Angeles, a city infamous for urban sprawl, is among the most densely settled in the USA and more dense than any Australian city, with 2,300 people per square kilometre.

Demographia is an American think tank that also publishes a widely-reported survey on international housing affordability.

This year’s Demographia Urban World Areas report is available here.

Sydney

Melbourne

Brisbane

Perth

Adelaide

Pop.

4,100,000 4,010,000 2,065,000 1,815,000 1,160,000

Area

2,037km2 2,542km2 1,972km2 1,566km2 85,2km2

Pop. per km2

1,900 1,500 1,000 1,000 1,300

Density rank

936 955 996 986 965

Population rank

104 106 250 284 442

Area rank

43 32 47 68 152
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