REGIONAL towns surrounding Griffith are losing residents at an alarming pace and no one is coming to replace them.
Hay shire has been revealed to have the second-fastest population decline of all local government areas across the nation, with a 2.6 per cent drop, while Murrumbidgee shire has come in fourth with a 2 per cent decline.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics released figures on Monday showing Griffith itself (0.5 per cent) was well below the national average (1.6 per cent) for population growth between 2006 and 2011.
More people had moved out of the city than had moved in but there had been enough births in the period to provide minimal population growth.
Dean McCarthy moved to town seven months ago to become the general manager of Griffith Leagues Club and said he was shocked to find a metropolis "way out west".
He believed Griffith had everything it needed to attract new residents but needed to get word out that it had so much to offer.
"I think Griffith is just a hidden gem," Mr McCarthy said.
"I have lived by the coast all my life and I just thought it was a country town in the middle of nowhere until I experienced it for myself.
"I was gobsmacked at how cosmopolitan it was. We need to get the message out there the best way we can."
With plans to expand several industries in the city, including two wineries, a freight hub and a chicken processing plant, local economic development professionals have predicted an upcoming period of elevated population growth for Griffith.
But surrounding towns, many of which recorded negative growth between 2006 and 2011, have a lot of work to do to turn their figures around.
Murrumbidgee mayor Phil Wells believed his constituents were up to the task.
He said the drought and the Murray-Darling Basin Plan had seen an attrition of residents and kept others from moving to the area but the resolution of both problems would give the shire its spark back.
"I really believe we are on the cusp of flourishing again," he said.
"Farmers will start to re-employ again once it picks up and we have a great community to offer newcomers.
"We have affordable housing, good schools, good medical facilities and underrated recreational facilities."
Nearby regional centres did not fare much better than Griffith in the five years to 2011, with Wagga's population growing just 0.8 per cent and Albury's 0.6 per cent.
No NSW towns were named in the top 10 for growth but five were in the bottom 10, including Jerilderie with a 1.9 per cent drop.