A leading demographer has warned one south-west shire's ageing population will threaten its agricultural sector and become unsustainable if nothing is done to tackle housing.
Co-founder of The Demographics Group, Simon Kuestenmacher's research will help form Corangamite Shire Council's 10-year Grow and Prosper plan.
He said he would urge the council to turn its biggest threat into an opportunity during his presentation at the Port Campbell Surf Life Saving Club on December 7.
"About one third of all jobs in the shire are in agriculture, but what we're seeing now is an ageing farmer population," Mr Kuestenmacher said.
"That person's children aren't looking to take over the farm, which leads to farm degradation. Eventually, there won't be enough hands to tend to the land.
"That'll suck the lifeblood and energy out of the smallest regional communities. This negative, downwards population spiral, once the town hits a certain benchmark, will mean the local IGA for example won't be viable anymore - the footy team won't be able to man a full squad.
"Sooner or later, this ageing population will need care and finding care workers is a huge problem. Care jobs are the fastest growing - they grew by 95,000 over the last five years and will only increase.
"Our towns are nowhere ready for that. A bigger town like Terang would soak up that population from the smaller settlements. That's why you see towns like Terang ageing like crazy - that then drives further demand for care.
"But this is also a huge opportunity for the shire."
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Latest census data showed the median age of residents in the shire's three main growth corridors - Camperdown, Cobden and Terang - was 50, 51 and 49 respectively.
Mr Kuestenmacher said housing affordability was key to tackling that problem.
"What you want is to attract millennial families and to provide them with housing," he said.
"That's absolutely crucial to attract population growth and build the workforce. You could bet on those people bringing jobs with them.
"Corangamite Shire is too far away from Melbourne to be a working from home destination where people commute to the office once or twice a week.
"Everyone moving to the shire either doesn't need a job (retirees) or they need to bring a job with them or you need to provide a job for them.
"Corangamite Shire won't be the next Gold Coast with massive population rushes, but you could easily grow significantly more than what you're doing now and considering the ageing population, that becomes increasingly important.
"You have those opportunities if you get the cornerstone of housing right."
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