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Brief discussion of the location of our cities

Most of our cities are located where they are for a reason. This article provides a brief discussion.


Located at an outstanding harbour ideal for international shipping. Also connects with a relatively minor river (see below).


The location where Sydney Harbour connects to the river described above and becomes fresh water, useful for water supply rather than salt water. The location where Australia's (and one of the world's) first railways connects with Sydney. Also the location of the main road west of Sydney.


The location where the above railway (extended in 1863) intersects with an important river (the Hawkesbury-Nepean). Also where the main road west of Sydney intersects with the river.


Where one of our oldest rail lines (opened in 1856) intersects with a less important river. Also the main road heading south of Sydney.


Where the western rail line (extended here all the way back in 1876 and Great Western Highway intersects with the Macquarie River.


An important location for human settlement at the intersection of one of the most important navigable rivers and the coast. The hill adjoining the river also protects from flooding impacts.

Broken Hill

There would be little reason to have a city in a location such as this, other than the significant mineral deposits, which led the development of this area. Securing water supply in this location is a perennial issue. The economic development of the area led to the connection of transport links later (rail station opened in 1919) and highway links. Interestingly, the initial terminus of the main western line was Bourke, which is located at the intersection of an important river and not Broken Hill.

Other locations

Other parts of the state eg. the Northern Rivers and South Coast have not been discussed, however the theme tends to be that the cities and larger towns are located where rail and major road links intersect major rivers, especially near the coast.


Australia currently burns approximately 1.1 million barrels of crude oil and refined petroleum products per day. In days gone by, when only poorer sources of energy were available, the location of human settlements was more dictated by being close to navigable rivers for transport and water supply.

The 19th century coal-powered steam engine massively changed geography by making the rail line a significant factor in the location of human settlements.

Today, the location of airports (especially international airports) and major roads/motorways are arguably the most important factors in influencing human settlement, as they are faster/more convenient forms of transport.

An end to exponentially increasing and cheap oil supply at some point in the future would cause us to rediscover which parts of the state are genuinely valuable for urban settlement and those which are not (probably through a process of severe trauma).

All images courtesy of Six Maps.

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