ECONOMIC competition may be fierce among the Central West's largest council areas of Bathurst, Dubbo and Orange, but each has its own challenges when it comes to growth.
The Bathurst local government area had the highest growth compared to Dubbo and Orange councils, at 6.3 per cent across five years, according to NSW Office of Local Government figures.
However, it had the lowest number of active businesses.
Orange, by comparison, had the lowest growth rate, at 3.4 per cent, but had a higher number of active businesses compared to Bathurst.
Bathurst mayor Bobby Bourke said Bathurst relied more on fewer, larger businesses, but the city was still the launch point for the region.
"If you get a train from Newcastle to Sydney and it takes three hours - it takes three hours to get here and the train is unbelievable," he said.
Orange's average disposable income was also the highest of the three, but the unemployment rate indicated the wealth was being spread among fewer people.
Mayor Reg Kidd said the challenge for Orange might be in training.
"Don't they want to work, or don't they have the skills? That would be a good position to look at," he said.
However, he was content with Orange's growth rate.
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"Our strategy has always been good, sustainable growth - that's around infrastructure because we have to be able to support that growth," he said.
Dubbo's challenges are far different - although it has the lowest socioeconomic status of the three, its unemployment rate was also the lowest.
Mayor Ben Shields said there was a good variety of both skilled and unskilled work.
"If you're able-bodied and under 50 years old, you can get a job in Dubbo," he said.
Cr Shields said the common complaint from employers was having too few people to choose from and although Dubbo acted as the hub for towns to the north and west, incentives were needed to bring more people.
"We need a proper migration strategy," he said.
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"For instance, stamp duty - let's get rid of it, it's the same with payroll tax."
Orange remains the most expensive place to live of the three, with the highest residential rates and waste charges, but Cr Kidd said it was not counteracting Orange's growth.
"I don't know of a person who's said they're moving down to Bathurst because their rates are lower," he said.
Councillor numbers up for debate
THEY preside over similar numbers of constituents, but the difficulty of being a councillor can change dramatically depending on whether they are part of Bathurst, Dubbo or Orange councils.
The NSW Office of Local Government has released data on the state's councils, revealing a stark contrast between the three regional councils.
Bathurst Regional Council and Orange City Council manage 42,779 and 41,468 people respectively, but while Bathurst has a land area of 3818 square kilometres and nine councillors, Orange has 12 councillors to cover just 284 square kilometres.
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Orange pays the highest amount in councillor fees as a result, with $274,000 spent, against $206,000 in Bathurst and $244,000 in Dubbo.
Orange mayor Reg Kidd said while it would create pressure to share the workload more, there was a case to reduce the number of councillors in Orange to nine.
"I've always believed nine councillors was more than sufficient and it seems to have worked in other places," he said.
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"When we had 14 councillors, at that time we said it should be 11."
Bathurst mayor Bobby Bourke said he was first elected when there were 12 councillors, but nine councillors worked fine.
"Having another three councillors is a big burden to the ratepayers," he said.
Dubbo Regional Council has a slightly larger population due to the amalgamation with Wellington in 2016, with 52,090, but its area is a massive 7534 square kilometres.
Dubbo mayor Ben Shields said it was a two-and-a-half-hour car trip from one side of the council area to the other and the two councils' original 20 councillors had been reduced to 10.
"It all depends on the level of effort councillors put into it - some put more into it that others," he said when asked how councillors managed the larger area.
"I would like to see the state government back us when it comes to infrastructure - we grew by 150 per cent geographically but only one-fifth more ratepayers," he said.
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Cr Shields said the council was still working through Wellington's infrastructure backlog and anticipated the transition would take the best part of a decade.
"It will be a significant challenge - there's 1500 kilometres of roads without seals on them, a lot of the sealed roads aren't up to scratch and footpaths in residential areas are practically non-existent," he said.
"It's hard to compare Dubbo at the moment - the figures from a couple of years ago are going to be obsolete because everything's about to change."
Cr Bourke said Bathurst also had a backlog, but the council had been successful with grant funding for the second track at Mount Panorama and stormwater harvesting.
Bathurst and Dubbo spent more on their roads, bridges and footpaths than Orange - $467 and $390 per capita against $118 - owing partially to larger road networks.
However, Orange outspent both its neighbours in community services, spending $338.45 per capita, versus $127.34 and $171 in Bathurst and Dubbo respectively.
Cr Kidd said those services included Meals on Wheels for the elderly and cheaper childcare for families.
"We should provide services for people, whether they're high-end or low-end income, in a democracy," he said.
"We should be a caring community - we have a responsibility to look after each other and provide things to have a comfortable lifestyle."
Pet ownership remains stable
RESIDENTS love their animals no matter where they live, but whether they are kept correctly differs across the region.
Bathurst had the highest rate of pet ownership, with 31,123 microchipped animals, translating to 0.72 animals per person.
Dubbo had the highest overall number of microchipped pets with 33,131, but compared to Orange's 27,955 animals, the rate of ownership was fairly consistent with 0.63 and 0.67 animals per person respectively.
However, the NSW Office of Local Government took the statistics one step further and measured the percentage of the total animals microchipped and registered.
The state average was 56.4 per cent and only one council met the standard - Orange City Council topped the list with 56.7 per cent of animals registered and Dubbo Regional Council was not far behind on 51.1 per cent.
However, Bathurst Regional Council lagged behind with 37.6 per cent of animals registered.
We don't get a lot of complaints with animals and we have a lot of off-leash areas in town.Bathurst Regional Council mayor Bobby Bourke
Mayor Bobby Bourke still believed animal control was good, especially in the area of desexing animals.
"We don't get a lot of complaints with animals and we have a lot of off-leash areas in town," he said.
Dubbo mayor Ben Shields said it was simply a matter the council needed to stay on top of.
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"We're tracking well but it's nowhere near where we need to be," he said.
Orange mayor Reg Kidd said it was important to encourage responsible ownership, particularly to avoid pets becoming nuisances.
"You need to be giving it activities, taking it for walks - often you find a dog that barks is just bored."
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