Every household that relocates to Bathurst contributes about $95,000 a year to the local economy, according to mayor Graeme Hanger.
And he says the city has enough water to accommodate a population of 50,000 and enough zoned land to accommodate 55,000 as Bathurst continues to be one of the fastest growing regional centres in the state.
The Western Advocate asked Bathurst Regional Council if it was comfortable with the city’s expansion after receiving a number of letters from residents expressing disquiet about the population boom.
Their concerns ranged from the loss of farmland to the squeeze on parking in the CBD to overdevelopment in Bathurst’s inner streets.
Cr Hanger, in response, pointed to the benefits new residents bring and said council had a number of strategies to manage any growing pains.
“Council is comfortable with the city's population growth rate,” he said.
“The average population growth rate of 1.4 per cent per year has not outstripped economic growth of 2.2pc per year, which means that the economy is keeping pace with population growth.”
The NSW Department of Planning and Environment predicts the Bathurst region’s population will reach 55,250 by 2036 - an additional 12,170 people.
“Sufficient zoned land is available to cater for the population growth to 2036 at current densities,” Cr Hanger said. “Beyond 2036, new vacant land stocks would need to be available for longer term growth of the city.
“Infrastructure such as the Water Filtration Plant and the Sewerage Treatment Plant are able to cater for a population beyond 2036, with council recently completing the new water reservoir at Kelso to cater for an additional 10,000 people.
“Based on current water consumption data, it is expected that Chifley Dam can cater for a population of approximately 50,000 people.”
Sustainable population growth was the “cornerstone of economic health”, he said.
“Every new relocation contributes approximately $95,000 per year to the local economy on average due to consumption and spending impacts.
“New residents generate new businesses, add to the customer base, create cultural diversity, lift median incomes, increase tourism through visiting friends and relatives, and grow participation in community groups.”
In terms of protecting farmland and inner city trees, Cr Hanger said council had adopted the Bathurst Region Urban and Rural Strategies.
“These strategies have considered the need to protect prime agricultural lands and minimise the fragmentation of agricultural lands for urban and rural residential purposes,” he said.
“We are also finalising a new Housing Strategy that considers the impacts of urban sprawl and how council can plan for the city's growth that uses vacant land stocks in the most efficient manner and minimises the expansion of the city's footprint.
“Council has in place a tree preservation policy that applies to the Heritage Conservation Areas in the Bathurst Region to ensure tree preservation is considered in the development process.”
Cr Hanger said there are a number of plans and strategies “to provide for the infrastructure required to support urban growth, including roads and parking, sewer and water”.
“Council also has in place a number of contribution plans to ensure new development contributes to the cost of new infrastructure.”
He said reviews had been conducted into car parking around the CBD and it continued to be monitored.
Investigations have shown there is not a shortfall of spaces, he said.
“Investigations have also identified the future supply required to support the growth of the CBD and council continues to plan for the provision of additional car parking infrastructure as that growth occurs.
“There is a contributions plan in place to ensure new development is contributing to the cost of that future infrastructure.
“Council will be commencing preparation of an Integrated Transport Plan for the CBD and linkages into the CBD that will consider road, parking, footpath and cycle path needs within and to and from the CBD as the city continues to grow.”