Top 10 population centres in Tasmania
There are more than 400 cities in the world with populations greater than one million. The largest concentration of people in Tasmania is in and around Hobart, the state capital, and that totals less than 200,000. Hobart would not make the top ten list of major cities in Australia.
Tasmania is the smallest state in Australia, both by area and by population. Its cities are tiny and uncongested although, to listen to locals, you would not think so. Delays of even a few minutes on the access roads to the CBD during ‘rush hour’ generate semi-hysterical letters to the editor of The Mercury newspaper. Every Hobart commuter should be forced, as a day-of-appreciation, to spend one day a year in Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane traffic. If that doesn’t fix them, they should be sent to London, Rome or Mexico City.
The population of Tasmania hit the half million mark at the end of 2008. About forty percent of residents live in and around Hobart, about twenty percent in Launceston, and a further twenty percent on the north-west coast in centres around Devonport and Burnie. The west coast, the east coast and the midlands are sparsely populated, although there are many small towns and communities throughout the island excepting, of course, in the vast South West Wilderness.
Hobart, or the greater Hobart metropolitan area, comprises the local government jurisdictions of the City of Hobart, the business centre around the harbour on the western shore of the Derwent River estuary, plus the City of Clarence, on the eastern shore, plus the City of Glenorchy, to the north – although all one suburban and industrial sprawl – and, for the purposes of this exercise, the Municipality of Brighton, extending further north from Glenorchy and incorporating the suburbs of Bridgewater and Gagebrook.
Launceston is the major service centre for the north of Tasmania. It has a population of approximately 100,000. It is a river city, located at the confluence of the Tamar, North Esk and South Esk rivers. Situated, as it is, some distance from open ocean, Launceston experiences a greater temperature range than coastal cities like Hobart, Devonport and Burnie.
Devonport faces north to Bass Strait at the mouth of the Mersey River in north-west Tasmania. Its population is approximately 30,000. It is a gateway for tourists, coming and going on one of the two Spirit of Tasmania ferries or through its airport – the third largest on the island.
Burnie is also on the north-west coast of Tasmania, not far from Devonport. Together with Somerset there are about 25,000 residents in the area. Burnie is a significant container and general cargo port.
Kingston lies 15 kilometres south of Hobart and is linked to the city by a dual-carriageway. It is a fast-growing area and is often considered a dormitory suburb for the capital and even, by some reckoning, as part of the greater Hobart metropolitan area. Kingston, together with Blackmans Bay, has a population of around 20,000. It is part of the Municipality of Kingborough which incorporates Taroona, which is decidedly a suburb of Hobart, small towns such as Margate and Kettering, and also Bruny Island.
Ulverstone is a town at the mouth of the Leven River on the north-west coast of Tasmania. It has a population of approximately 10,000. There is rich farming land in this part of Tasmania, which makes it attractive and prosperous, and this stretch of the coast attracts increasing numbers of retirees.
New Norfolk is upstream approximately 30 kilometres from Hobart, also on the Derwent River. It has a population of slightly less than 10,000. Tourists are attracted to the town, especially in autumn when the hundreds of poplar trees that line the streets change colour.
Wynyard is a town at the mouth of the Inglis River on the north-west coast of Tasmania. It is about 15 kilometres from Burnie. The population is less than 5,000. It was originally a fishing port and, like Ulverstone and other smaller towns on this part of the Tasmanian coast, it is increasingly popular with retirees.
George Town is on the eastern bank of the mouth of the Tamar River in north-east Tasmania, about 50 kilometres from Launceston. The population is less than 5,000 and has been in decline. Its economy is reliant on heavy industry at the deepwater port of Bell Bay. This is the area where the Gunns Ltd pulp mill may be built, although there must be some doubt over the project in the current financial climate.
Sorell is a fast-growing town 24 kilometres south-east of Hobart. It has a population of nearly 5,000 but there are more than 15,000 in the region. Its proximity to the state capital, to the international airport and to the developing retail complex at Cambridge, as well as being a tourist gateway to the east coast and the Tasman Peninsula, means that Sorell is unlikely to be at the bottom of this top ten list for long.