Tamworth council has hit back at the NSW government's "modest" predictions for the region's population growth, and says the local council's efforts to promote growth shouldn't be underestimated.
A spokesperson for Tamworth Regional Council (TRC) told the Leader the NSW Department of Planning and Environment's population projection of the region reaching only 71,956 residents by 2041, is not reflective of the reality on the ground.
"The Department of Planning has consistently provided modest population projections over quite some years, which has not reflected actual population figures since at least 2007," the spokesperson said.
Local MP Kevin Anderson sounded alarm bells over the projections last week, saying he's concerned the state government is ignoring Tamworth's potential for growth and is "sleepwalking towards a significant public infrastructure backlog".
A TRC spokesperson agreed the lower prediction is cause for concern, but said the local council is confident it will secure support from the NSW Government as needed to reach population growth targets.
"The modest projections are a concern when applying for grants and it is disconcerting that some government agencies place weight on the projections," the spokesperson said.
"Nonetheless, Council has been consistently successful in securing substantial grant funding based on the official figures provided by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and the trends shown by that data."
"In addition, there will be significant development in the education space with the UNE campus that will be constructed in Tamworth. This will help support the jobs of the future and pathways for youth," the TRC spokesperson said.
Council sticks to its guns on growth
While 100,000 people remains the goal, the TRC spokesperson said getting close to 80,000 by 2041 is a more realistic assumption, and would still deliver a host of benefits to the region.
"From 2007 to 2022 the Tamworth region experienced an average annual growth rate of 1.08 per cent. At this rate the population of the region will be approximately 80,000 at 2041," the spokesperson said.
"Blueprint 100 explores strategies and actions that Council can take with the community and government to promote and manage that growth as successive population thresholds are surpassed at whatever time that may be in the future."
"Council's projects have proven very successful in promoting growth," the spokesperson said.
"In the 12 months to 30 June 2022 the official figure released by the ABS showed that the population estimate for the Tamworth Regional Council LGA grew by 852 people, which represented population growth of 1.34 per cent."
If the population continues growing at that 1.34 per cent growth rate, it will reach 80,000 by 2039 and top 100,000 by 2055.
Blocks in the road to 100
These two projects alone are expected to support up to 3245 new homes, with council planning for more than 5000 new dwellings in total across the region.
But massive construction projects across Australia are drying up the nation's supply of concrete, making it hard to get enough supplies for local projects.
"One major obstacle to bringing these dwellings to market is the shortage of building materials such as concrete that has resulted from massive Government projects designed to stimulate the economy post-COVID-19," the TRC spokesperson said.
"This has impacted Council projects as well and the cost of materials has risen significantly in recent years."
The spokesperson said rising interest rates are also to blame for stifling development, as well as a mismatch between the types of housing needed versus what's readily available.
"The housing market is tight, especially one and two bedroom units. The dominant dwelling type is separate houses with four or more bedrooms. This contributes to a housing affordability issue," they said.
The TRC spokesperson said council is aware of the region's housing problem and is working to resolve it for residents at all income levels.
"Housing stress does not just affect those on low incomes. For example, in 2021, 240 lone persons on moderate incomes could not access market priced rental housing," they said.
Council is inviting residents to give their input on housing needs in the region with a new survey open from November 14 to December 12 on TRC's have your say website.
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