LEADING demographer Bernard Salt says a slow decline in Corangamite Shire’s population demonstrates the efficiency of rural Australia.
Born and bred in Terang, Mr Salt said part of the population decline was due to farms increasing in size with farmers buying out their neighbours.
“The neighbours then move to town or away,” he said.
Mr Salt said this trend was not new with the generations that followed the soldier settlements of World War I and II needing larger areas of land to farm.
“They were not big enough to support the next generation,” he said.
“Then you also had the next generations having fewer kids.
Mr Salt told The Standard agriculture in Corangamite was more productive and more valuable to the economy than ever before and it was being done with fewer workers.
He said the productivity also meant an increased wealth for those who continued to farm in the area.
Mr Salt’s comments were echoed in the council’s annual report which noted that agriculture was the major driver of the local economy with the industry employing just under one third of the shire’s population.
“Corangamite is one of the most productive dairying regions of Australia with diary contributing $300 million to the local economy,” the report stated.
“The national trends of ageing population, downturns in manufacturing and the changing face of agriculture were all issues faced by Corangamite Shire.”
Mr Salt said the excess labour was soaked up in cities like Melbourne and Geelong but also around Port Fairy, Warrnambool and the Surf Coast.
He said decades ago it was normal for towns to have four banks and for schools to be littered around the districts but it was inevitable that would change.
“Nothing can remain the same forever,” he said.
“You do get the revitalisation of little towns like Woolsthorp and Winslow with young families moving to the area.
“Terang might be just on the edge of Corangamite for a commutable distance to Warrnambool.
“In years to come, by 2030 it might be trendy place.”
Mr Salt said it was a rite of passage for many young people to leave their hometown and pursue further education and training.
“Some people might really want to test their mettle and live in Geelong and Melbourne,” he said.
“It’s a very Australian thing to do.
“New Zealanders also do it a lot.”
Mr Salt said the challenge was to attract those people back once they were professional and had gained skills.
“Overtime you can lose people and not everyone comes back,” he said.