Opinion

Population statistics fix has to be a top priority

By Deniliquin Pastoral Times

Is it any wonder regional communities become frustrated with a bureaucracy that continues to hinder our efforts to progress?

The latest news from the inept NSW Department of Planning and Environment does nothing but exacerbate the view that we have an unacceptable level of dysfunctionality within bureaucracy.

But we progress regardless. Despite all the challenges that have been thrown at our region, we continue to prosper.

The latest population statistics indicate a slight increase in the Edward River Council area over the past 12 months, which is an amazing feat of resilience, and should be setting the tone for ongoing growth.

Instead, we are handicapped because the planning department is incapable of expediently conducting a review of its own flawed statistics. When it first suggested the Deniliquin population would be heading close to the 5000 mark in just over a decade, everyone in our region knew this prediction was false.

But the stubborn department said it had used an appropriate formula and its gaze into the future was not going to be altered.

If its inaccuracies were treated with the disdain they deserve it wouldn’t matter, but unfortunately potential investors will often refer to population trends when deciding whether or not to grow their business in a particular region.

Likewise, fellow government departments will use the flawed data from a fellow department to determine where to best invest public funds in infrastructure and future growth strategies.

As a consequence these population predictions are important.

So when it was made clear to the Department of Planning and Environment that it has got it wrong, which the department eventually acknowledged, surely we would see rapid action to remediate this situation.

That is what would happen in the real world, but it’s not the way it works in the circles of government. Instead, we get excuses trying to explain why a promised review has not been completed and a suggestion that it will happen ‘‘at some stage this year’’.

We do not believe that is good enough.

Population predictions for this region from the Department of Planning and Environment have been wrong for too long. They need to be fixed and this needs to be a departmental priority.

Planning Minister Rob Stokes needs to shake up his department and make its personnel aware that when data is released that is later found to be incorrect, it needs to be quickly rectified. The ‘we’ll get to it at some point’ attitude has to change.