False pop. figures have big impact

December 26, 2017

There needs to be some sort of ‘‘performance penalty’’ to prevent the NSW Department of Planning and Environment from continually releasing misleading population trends, according to NSW Member for Murray Austin Evans.

Mr Evans — who had last week vowed to lobby relevant ministers for an immediate review of the statistics before Christmas — said it beggars belief that recent trends don’t match the results of the 2016 Census.

He said the consequences of false predictions have far reaching impacts for communities in his electorate, with the figures being used to determine government spending and other important decisions.

He said it could also potentially jeopardise Deniliquin and district’s attempts to ease the shortage of doctors in the community, which has been ongoing for more than 12 months.

‘‘Many other departments put weight on the department’s population trends report when making decisions,’’ Mr Evans said.

‘‘This issue is one that has been bothering me for many years, particularly in my role as mayor of the former Murrumbidgee Shire Council.

‘‘It appears the department has taken figures from the decade long drought and has just continued along the dotted line.

‘‘If the department cannot get the predictions right, they should not be released.

‘‘We need these figures addressed immediately. If the models are that complicated they cannot be changed quickly, then perhaps we need new models.

‘‘How difficult is it to enter the correct Census data?’’

According to the NSW Department of Planning website, the Edward River Council area’s population will decrease by 16 per cent over the next 18 years.

It makes this assumption despite the most recent Census finding that Deniliquin’s population has increased by nearly five per cent.

Adding to the frustration locally, the department’s figures for the 2016 Edward River Council population are incorrect, despite it being updated recently after the 2016 Census.

The Census states the ERC population is 8,851, but the NSW Government lists the population at 8,650.

Issuing a statement to the Pastoral Times earlier this week, a spokesperson from the NSW Department of Planning said they are ‘‘aware of the discrepancies in population figures and will be updating the population projections’’ but said ‘‘the complete set of data required will be released by the ABS in late 2018’’.

Deniliquin Business Chamber president Justine Keech said waiting until late 2018 to correct false information was too long, adding there could be a long list of developments impacted by the statistics before then.

‘‘In every involvement chamber has had with consultants we’re told there is a reliance on this data released by the department, so we need to get this sorted out now.

‘‘We need it fixed so when we’re making plans for the future we’re confident the right information is being used in the decision making.

‘‘As a community it is beholden on us to put a case to go back to the department and have it reviewed and changed immediately. It’s not enough to just announce it is incorrect.’’

Department statistics in the neighboring local government areas of Berrigan Shire and Murrumbidgee Council are also at odds with the recent Census data, and Berrigan Shire general manager Rowan Perkins said the continued inaccurate predictions are ‘‘getting to the point of serious incompetence’’.

Newly revised NSW Department of Planning and Environment population projections predict Berrigan Shire’s population will decline by 6.2 per cent, to a population of just 7,800 people, by 2036.

The Census shows a population increase in the shire of 4.9 per cent to 8,462 since 2011, while the department lists its 2016 population as 8,400.

In Murrumbidgee Council, Census data shows a 2016 population of 3,760 — an increase of 148 people from the 2011 survey — but the population is only 3,700 according to the department’s report.

‘‘My main concern is that other government departments have to use the Department of Planning’s data when making decisions,’’ Mr Perkins said.

‘‘These figures are referred to by the state government when considering a request for rezoning for more development, and also in the implementation of infrastructure.

‘‘And if a potential developer takes a look at these trends, we’re also losing private investment. What kind of message is this sending about our local government areas?’’

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