Berrigan Shire Council is expected to challenge NSW Department of Planning data which indicates it is in a long-term population decline.
It follows the release of the 2016 Census data last week which showed for the third consecutive Census period a population increase in the shire.
Conducted in August last year, the 2016 Census confirmed a population of 8462 across the shire. This is an increase of 396 people, or 4.9 per cent, from the 8066 recorded in 2011.
Council director corporate services Matt Hansen said increases in population were also recorded in 2011 and 2006, yet he says the shire is constantly being told it is in decline.
‘‘The Department of Planning has been telling us for the last 20 years our population is declining, but here we are still growing,’’ Mr Hansen said.
‘‘We can see locally that we’re building more houses and attracting new residents — our position is that we know we are growing but the department keeps telling us our economy is not diverse enough.
‘‘All government departments state we must use Department of Planning data in our applications, but we know they are wrong.
‘‘Part of the problem is the modelling, as the department does not understand our population drivers are different to others in New South Wales. Particularly, a lot of it comes from Victoria.
‘‘As is often the case the department simply looks up a New South Wales postcode, which means Barooga — which has a Victorian postcode but is in New South Wales and Berrigan Shire — is never counted.
‘‘We also know that 50 per cent of our shire’s young people travel to Victoria for school as day students, so that impacts on our education statistics.
‘‘We know that at least 30 per cent of shire residents travel to work in Moira Shire Council in Victoria.
‘‘It’s a continual battle for us as a border shire, and we’ve been back to the department every time these figures are released.’’
The 2016 statistics show the median age of residents is 49, up from 48 in 2011.
The age group with the most residents is the 65 to 74 year-olds, of which there were 1370 recorded in 2016. It is up from 1123 in 2011, when the most represented age group was the 55 to 64 year-olds (1281 people in 2011).
Mr Hansen said notable growth statistics included the increase of the local Indigenous population from 2.1 per cent to 2.3 per cent, and the increase in residents born overseas from 12.1 per cent in 2011 to 18.7 per cent in 2016.
‘‘It shows that Berrigan Shire is more diverse than people think, with the majority of those overseas people being in the medical field and other professional services.’’
Berrigan Shire Mayor Matt Hannan said the Australia Bureau of Statistics’ Census results show the strength of shire communities in times of adversity.
‘‘These Census figures support the council’s position, based on its own planning data and anecdotal evidence, that Berrigan Shire continues to grow,’’ Cr Hannan said.
‘‘Despite the impact of the Murray Darling Basin Plan on our communities, Berrigan Shire has demonstrated remarkable resilience.
‘‘The lifestyle and opportunities available in our shire continue to attract and retain residents and businesses alike.”
Mr Hansen said while 2016 population statistics for each individual town show some great increases — up by 169 people in Berrigan, 10 in Finley, 299 in Tocumwal and 320 in Barooga — he did say there were some boundary changes which may skew the data year-on-year.
‘‘We will have to wait for the release of urban data in October, which is recorded street by street, to get a real indication for the towns,’’ he said.
‘‘With the Australian Bureau of Statistics altering the collection boundaries from last Census, it is hard to match the data like-with-like.
‘‘Council has an independent consultant we work with who can assist us to work out any anomalies.’’