Orange mayor Reg Kidd is still certain the Orange region could sustain a population of upward of 60,000, but new figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics suggest if current trends continue that point won't be reached for another four decades.
The ABS' latest regional projections show Orange's population has grown by around 15 per cent since the turn of the century, with consistent growth between 2000 and 2006 before rapid increases comparatively in the years following.
The figures, based on averages, show that since 2006 Orange's population has grown by 5,102 to people to reach 42,503 at a median rate of 425.16 per year. If that continues it would take another 41 years to reach the 60,000 mark, in 2062.
"If I'm still around I'll be a very old man by then," Cr Kidd laughed.
Those figures largely align with Orange City Council's projections from 2019, which estimated the population will reach 52,000 by 2041. The ABS statistics suggested a slightly longer timeframe to reach that mark, by only two years more.
"It's interesting to hear that, but we need to remember all the ABS numbers are largely based on averages and there are a lot of different factors that can cause big changes to population growth," Cr Kidd said.
"But like I said last month, we do have the infrastructure to support that kind of growth and it is sustainable at those levels, a lot of our planning projections are based on a future population of between 50,000 and 60,000.
"But the growth of Orange isn't solely reliant on what happens here, it's a regional thing and like we've seen recently things happen out of left-field like the COVID-19 pandemic, which I think would definitely have had an impact on populations everywhere.
"We'd also need to consider the development of different industries and what that could do to populations as well."
Cr Kidd doubled down on his view that technological advances would leave little necessity for the city to substantially develop retail or office-based spaces, although he said they tend to be a natural by-product of population growth anyway.
He pointed to appealing towns and villages as equally as enticing prospects for population migration and outside investment, speculating as to what kind of impact the end of the pandemic will bring.
"I think once everything opens up again there might be some changes, a lot of people moved home when they could when it all hit. A lot of people have moved, or could move, as a result because of increased flexibility in the workplace, there's so many different factors at play," he said.
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