Investigations by the Pastoral Times and our sister paper, the Southern Riverina News, last week uncovered appalling inaccuracies in NSW Department of Planning population predictions.
Getting these figures right is imperative to our region’s future, as they are a source used by potential developers to make important decisions on location and expansion.
The department has for several years predicted startling declines in Deniliquin’s population, down to 5,700 by 2031. Despite being told this was totally inaccurate, which 2016 Census figures have since proved, the department refused to make an adjustment.
Now, Deniliquin’s population is on the rise (4.7 per cent from 2011 to 2016), yet the department is still predicting population declines because it has not accurately factored in numbers from the former Conargo Shire.
It has admitted this week there are “discrepancies” that will be updated when further Census information is available.
This is not good enough. If the department knows its figures are wrong they should not be published, which surely is common-sense. In their current form they give false information to any developer, and as a consequence have the potential to economically damage our region.
As our investigations have shown, this is not unique to Deniliquin or the Edward River Council area, with both Berrigan and Murrumbidgee Shires also concerned about inaccurate Department of Planning predictions.
In the words of Berrigan Shire General Manager Rowan Perkins the department is “getting to the point of serious incompetence”.
This issue needs to be resolved, and quickly.
Member for Murray Austin Evans tells us he will approach the relevant Minister and seek a revision. History tells us this will have no impact, as it was the exact approach taken by Mr Evans’ predecessor Adrian Piccoli, with zero result.
Mr Evans must show strength and demand (not politely ask) not only for an immediate review, but also significant promotion by the Department of Planning highlighting the growth and opportunities throughout our region, taking in Edward River Council, Berrigan and Murrumbidgee Shires.
Mr Perkins and Murrumbidgee’s General Manger Craig Moffitt have both expressed concern the incorrect information being promoted by the NSW Government “has the potential to adversely impact the district’s ability to attract new industry, business and jobs”.
We expect Mr Evans to fix this serious problem. Immediately.