CLAIMS Griffith will lose more than a fifth of its population over the next two decades have enraged local leaders, who have slammed the data as “untrue and damaging”.
New figures from the Department of Planning and Infrastructure show Griffith’s population is expected to drop a staggering 5100 people in the next 20 years, bringing the city total down to just 20,200.
But long-time locals have questioned the validity of the figures, saying Griffith is emerging from an economic slump and more prosperous times are just around the corner.
According to the 2013 population and housing projections report, Griffith will be the hardest hit in regional NSW, while Leeton’s population was predicted to remain static at 11,150 and Wagga would grow by almost 19 per cent to more than 73,000.
But council economic development officer Nicola James said the predictions were incorrect and localised data from the Riverina Murray Regional population forecasts indicated Griffith would grow steadily between now and 2031.
“I think it’s quite irresponsible of them to be releasing this,” Mrs James said.
“The Census modelling is not accurate and I can’t see that it’s at all in line with what’s actually happening.”
Mrs James said growth in the manufacturing sector - including a mass expansion at Baiada, the Casella Wines deal with Coca-Cola Amatil and a growing confidence in agriculture - proved Griffith was on an upward trend.
“We’ve seen a huge rebound in agriculture; there’s a lot of growth in cotton and our nut industry is exploding,” she said.
“You also need to take in development applications, land developments, aged care and facilities and what will be expanding in the future.”
Mayor John Dal Broi also refuted the predictions and said Griffith’s status as a regional centre afforded the city some certainty of growth.
“I think it’s a load of rubbish,” Cr Dal Broi said.
“It’s ridiculous to say that Leeton won’t move but we’ll go backwards - there’s something wrong with the calculations.”
Cr Dal Broi said the uncertainty of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan had cast a shadow of doubt over the region but that was beginning to pass.
“Farming is tight at the moment but they are meeting production costs and I don’t think farming here will stop indefinitely,” Cr Dal Broi said.
“This area has the capacity to produce - we just need support from government to help that along.”
Respected community stalwart Roy Stacy, who was born at Beelbangera almost 93 years ago, has seen plenty of ups and downs throughout the city’s history but said growth has always remained constant.
“I think the statistics are completely wrong - Griffith will keep growing,” Mr Stacy said.
“We’ve seen terrific growth in Griffith since the 1950s, we’ve advanced a long way and we will continue to into the future.”