OUR SAY: Sydney’s biggest problem is our biggest opportunity

One of the biggest stories about Orange in the past week was not actually about Orange at all.

It was about Sydney, and its incredible population growth.

The story was that Department of Planning and Infrastructure figures had been released that showed the Sydney population was growing much faster than predicted only a couple of years ago.

Updated forecasts showed Sydney was now expected to have about 6.42 million people in 20 years – 170,000 more than predicted only two years earlier.

That’s a lot of people for a city that appears to be struggling with the five million residents it accommodates now – and that’s where surrounding cities, including Orange, become part of the story.

There have been many factors in Orange’s continued population growth – a diversified economy for one – but one of the big ones has to be the city’s proximity to the state capital.

As Sydney struggles with its traffic, its stratospheric house prices and its stretched health system, some of its citizens look beyond the metropolitan basin for a better lifestyle.

They want to be able to drive to work in 10 minutes, to buy a house for under $500,000 and to know the people they see when they walk down the main street.

But they also don’t want to move too far away from friends and family in the big smoke.

Orange can offer these lifestyle factors – and has been offering them to more and more Sydneysiders who choose to make the move over the Blue Mountains.

Improvements to the Great Western Highway, which is now two lanes in both directions from Katoomba to Penrith, and the Bells Line of Road, where overtaking lanes are appearing along the mountain track, have chipped away at the trip to Sydney, bringing the Central West ever closer.

And the multi-year upgrade to the highway through Kelso and the improvements around Hartley, near Lithgow, will reduce that trip again.

There can be no doubt that Orange’s future – like the future of the Central Coast, the Blue Mountains and the Illawarra – is tied, in part, to the future of the biggest city in Australia.

Another million people in Sydney might, in the long run, mean another good reason for long-term Sydneysiders to look west for a new life.

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