The next redistribution for NSW state electorates has just kicked off, with boundaries due to be redrawn for the 2023 state election.
The first stage of the process allows anyone to make submissions suggesting electoral boundaries, either making suggestions about a particular seat or the entire state. Suggestions are open from last Monday, 1 June, until 1 July.
The NSWEC has also published enrolment statistics for each electorate, and they point to some big population imbalances that will lead to some necessary shifts in electoral boundaries.
In particular, a series of outer suburban electorates are far above quota, and will require neighbouring seats to be adjusted, and likely the creation of one or two new seats in the area.
Electoral boundaries are required to be drawn so that every electorate is within 10% of the average enrolment as of the beginning of this process (based on March 2020 data), but also within 10% of the projected enrolment as of April 2023. Due to the nature of enrolment trends the variations from the quota tend to be bigger as of 2023, so that’s where I’ll focus my attention.
The following table breaks the state into ten regions: five in Sydney and five outside Sydney. It adds up the total variance in each region, which tells you something about which regions are consistently below quota or above quota. It is likely that most seats will require some change, but big imbalances across a region will require changes that will have knock-on effects across the state.
|Region||Seats||2020 variance||2023 variance|
|East & Inner West||11||-13.0||-20.2|
The non-Sydney electorates are collectively about 19% of a quota above where they need to be. This is due to the Hunter and the South-East both being well over quota. This is partly cancelled out by the west of the state falling short of a quota. This will likely be resolved by moving some voters from a Hunter electorate into a Western NSW seat. It doesn’t seem likely the population shifts will be enough to justify abolishing a seat in the west of the state, as has happened at a number of recent redistributions.
At some point in southern Sydney it’s likely that a Sydney electorate will need to absorb some voters currently in a non-Sydney electorate, either in Sutherland or the Macarthur region.
There are some massive imbalances within Sydney. The whole of Western and South-Western Sydney are 71% over quota, while the eastern half of the city is 90% under quota. It seems likely that at least one new electorate will be created, likely in the Macarthur region, while one seat will be abolished, likely on the north shore. Indeed I suspect we may see two new seats created on the edge of Western Sydney.
The cause of this imbalance becomes clearer when you look at individual seats. Two thirds of all seats (62 out of 93) are under quota, with a smaller number of seats taking most of the population growth. The following map colour-codes each seat. Green seats are over quota, and red seats are under quota.
Camden in the south-west is projected to be 52.6% over quota by 2023. As of March 2020 it has over 75,000 voters, 8,000 more than the second most populous electorate (Londonderry) and 22,000 more than the least populous electorate (Cootamundra).
Camden has been taking the bulk of the population growth in the south-western quadrant of Sydney, particularly in the north of the seat. This trend is even more dramatic when you look at the local council wards, with the North ward taking almost all of the growth (I’ve been planning a wonky post about this population trend for a while, watch this space).
The other seats at the top of the list are similar centres for concentrated growth:
- Riverstone – 22.0% over quota
- Londonderry – 21.8%
- Macquarie Fields – 20.0%
- Castle Hill – 16.1%
- Heffron – 13.7%
- Shellharbour – 11.5%
- Maitland – 10.9%
With the exception of Heffron, which has taken the bulk of inner Sydney’s population growth, all of these seats are outer suburban areas. Shellharbour is effectively an outer suburb of Wollongong, and Maitland plays the same role in relation to Newcastle.
Population growth in Sydney has not been even. There has been tremendous construction of new housing in the north-west and south-west, while the North Shore has been mostly spared. As a consequence, one Liberal MP on the North Shore is likely to lose their seat.
There is also a string of under-quota seats in those parts of Western Sydney closer to the city, and if a second seat is abolished it could be here.
These population trends don’t tell us exactly what will happen. The Commissioners will have many options for how they deal with this growing population imbalance, and many people will have opinions about how the map will be drawn. But ultimately the surge in population growth in Western Sydney and the outer suburbs of Newcastle and Wollongong will see shifts in power towards those areas, and away from those with little growth.