The draft Cootamundra 2050 Strategy released by Cootamundra-Gundagai Regional Council last week for public comment, has warned that Cootamundra's population, currently around 6,000, could go into a "sharp decline" by 2050.
Cootamundra's population has grown at only a snail's pace in recent years, with growth of only 90 people (from 5,669 to 5,579) between the 2011 and 2016 censuses, roughly 0.3% per annum.
In its Strategy, Cootamundra-Gundagai Regional Council suggests Cootamundra could support a population of 10,000 by mid-century with a growth rate of 1.5% per annum.
This could be difficult to achieve, however, because of the "structural ageing" within the population.
"Cootamundra has almost doubled the percentage of the population which is aged 65 and over since 2001," the Strategy commented.
"In 2001, 15.8 percent of the Cootamundra population was aged 65 and over, but by 2016 this had increased to 30.5 percent.
"No other urban centre in the Riverina can rival Cootamundra for percentage of the population which is made up of the 65 years and older demographic.
"Should nothing be done to retain younger people and attract more families to Cootamundra the town faces the reality of a sharp population decline as forecast by modelling by the Department of Planning."
Questions about population growth were included in a survey conducted by the Council as part of its public consultation leading up to the Strategy - and perhaps not surprisingly it revealed that some people in the town are just fine about the slow growth rate.
A significant 18.6 of those who responded to the survey - nearly one in five - said they would be happy for the 2050 population to remain at the current size.
That was definitely a minority view, however, as the survey showed 41% of respondents wanted a population of 10,000, 24.4% wanted 15,000 and 15.5% wanted more than 15,000.
The Strategy said the ageing of the population had been "artificially inflated" with migration of 65 year and older people.
"Cootamundra needs to be proactive in attracting new families to town, but it needs to compete with the rest of Australia while doing so.
"Employment and lifestyle opportunities are key to the success of driving population growth, which should be a combination of luring children back to town and targeting skill deficits in the community such as health and aged care workers."
The Strategy said the public consultation process had presented a "determined and daring vision" by Cootamundra's people, who stated clearly that the key values they wanted for 2050 were for Cootamundra to be friendly, community-oriented, well-serviced, vibrant and sustainable.
"This time of reflection and planning is the opportunity for Cootamundra to be a more liveable, sustainable and prosperous town.
"In order to achieve this, we need to be realistic and have some tough conversations.
"Urban sprawl has to be contained to ensure our delivery of infrastructure is done in a way which is equitable and cost effective to all.
"Every person in our community needs to have equitable access to education, recreation and other social opportunities without physical, financial and social barriers dividing us and leaving some behind."
The full Strategy 2050 document can be viewed on the council's website at https://www.cgrc.nsw.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/CGRC0001_Cootamundra-2050-Strategy_V2_Small.pdf