Melbourne: Melbourne would be Australia’s largest city by the mid-2030s, data released on Thursday revealed.

The release from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) said the value of building work done in Victoria rose more than nine per cent in 12 months till March to $8.39 billion, while the value of work done in the rest of Australia dropped 7.2 per cent, Xinhua news agency reported.

In total, there were 12.1 per cent more building projects being undertaken in Victoria in March 2017 compared to March 2016.

Tim Pallas, Victoria’s Treasurer, said the government would spend $7.2 billion on infrastructure projects over the next four years to accommodate Melbourne’s rapidly-expanding population.

“We continue to see the positive results of our agenda for infrastructure over the past three budgets with record investment focused on what’s most important to our cities, towns and communities,” Pallas said on Thursday.

Bernard Salt, one of Australia’s leading demographers, said that at the current rate of growth, Melbourne could overtake Sydney as Australia’s largest city as early as 2031.

“Sydney’s (population) lead is now closer to 350,000 but is narrowing at a rate of 20,000 a year. If present rates were to continue Melbourne would replace Sydney as Australia’s largest city at some point in the 2030s,” Salt said.

“Melbourne offers what Sydney cannot or will not offer: Access to affordable housing on the urban fringe.”

Jeff Kennett, Victoria’s premier from 1992 to 1999, formulated a plan that predicted Melbourne’s population would hit five million in 2030 at the earliest but Salt said the population will hit that mark around 2021.

The western suburbs of Melbourne shape as the major growth corridor, Salt said, with the Wyndham and Melton regions surpassing the Gold Coast as Australia’s fastest-growing areas.

Wyndham and Melton added 35,000 new residents between them in Financial Year 2016, accounting for a third of all Melbourne’s growth.

In addition to housing affordability, Salt said much of Melbourne’s growth could be attributed to booming employment, with Victoria adding 115,600 jobs in 12 months to April 2017, more than all other Australian states combined.