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Williams dismisses claims about declining population predictions

Although Deniliquin is expected to lose 1600 people within 20 years, Member for Murray-Darling John Williams says addressing the figures would be fruitless.

May 6, 2014 3:47am

Member for Murray-Darling John Williams has dismissed the concerns of local councils about the state government’s declining population predictions, saying there are ‘‘more things to focus on’’.

Mr Williams said the projections were often wrong but that ‘‘you’ve got to have a baseline for planning’’.

Figures released in September last year by the NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure indicate Deniliquin will lose 1600 people within 20 years – almost a quarter of the current population.

Deniliquin Council has been fighting ever since to have the prediction reviewed.

Based on the 2011 Census figures, which were compiled during the drought, council maintains the prediction is inaccurate and could discourage investment in Deniliquin and people thinking of moving here.

Despite council’s request to have the figures addressed, Mr Williams believes it will be fruitless.

‘‘They are not going to change the numbers,’’ he said yesterday.

‘‘It’s really just about having a benchmark – you’ve got to start somewhere.

‘‘This stuff is extrapolated from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the reality is it is often nothing near the mark.

‘‘These numbers are a tool the government uses for planning and there is a figure in there that accounts for variations.

‘‘This has been the practice for many years and there’s no way they are going to change it.’’

When asked whether he saw any merit in at least trying to have the figures reviewed and changed, Mr Williams’ response was ‘‘What’s that going to change?’’.

But Mr Williams said the declining population prediction may not necessarily spell disaster for Deniliquin and district.

‘‘On that basis (that the prediction could impact on investment and relocation), there shouldn’t be any mining in Broken Hill. In fact Broken Hill has just built a new shopping centre, against predictions of a decline.

‘‘Communities have resisted (predictions like this before) and we have seen it is more about the economic drivers.

‘‘With this type of data the trend does not always follow what is extrapolated from the Census.’’

Deniliquin Mayor Lindsay Renwick said if the figures could not be changed, the way the prediction is determined must be looked at.

‘‘At a meeting in Sydney last week, more than 20 councils all said the figures are concerning – who is making these decisions?

‘‘Perhaps nothing can be done to change these figures, so maybe we should change the formula.

‘‘We have said it is a bad vibe to have in any town (if there is a predicted population decline).

‘‘Our trend said we were growing, and then we had the drought – the figures are all garbage.

‘‘We have had population increases in the annual figures in the last three years, but this year’s was only a minimal percentage of one per cent.

‘‘If our planned projects go ahead, including the ethanol plant and the abattoir, will they take notice then?’’

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