IT may be years before Bathurst finds out just what impact the COVID-19 pandemic will have on the area's long-term population.
During 2020, there was an increase in people leaving the metropolitan centres in favour of regional areas, with Bathurst one of the locations attracting a lot of interest.
Some of those people have been able to retain their jobs in metropolitan areas while living in regional NSW, with an increased reliance on technology during the pandemic showing people that it's possible to work remotely.
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Bathurst's projected population for 2036 was 55,250, but there have been questions raised over whether the number will be higher than that.
Bathurst Regional Council's director of Environmental, Planning and Building Services, Neil Southorn, has indicated it could be years before we know the answer.
"It is hard to predict population growth and the current estimates are based on indicative growth rates over a number of years," he said.
"While there appears to be an increase in regional relocation in the current climate, we don't know if this will become a long -term trend or how it will influence numbers over the next decade or more.
"There would need to be a period of sustained, higher than average regional relocation to have a dramatic impact of these estimates."
Regardless of how the population evolves, Mr Southorn said research like the Bathurst 2036 Housing Strategy, won't become redundant.
"The 2036 Housing Strategy has been developed to guide the anticipated growth of the city and is designed to assist council in encouraging a range of housing options that meet the current and future needs of the city," he said.
"It allows council to proactively manage how and where future housing and residential development will be provided.
"While the document is based on published population estimates and projections, it's focus is more on how we should be using residential land and this still applies, even if the forecast population is higher, or even lower than predicted.
"Furthermore, all strategies of council including this one are subject to periodic review."
Councillor Warren Aubin, however, is concerned about the future population, particularly when it comes to water security.
It is one of the things driving his call for a third dam in Bathurst.
He said he thinks it's more likely that Bathurst's population will be in excess of 65,000 people by time 2036 hits.
"With the advent of people working from home, the likelihood of people then doing a treechange and looking at Bathurst as an area to come to is higher, because it's ideally situated, only a two-hour drive from Sydney and we've got aeroplanes, the airport, trains and a half-decent road that goes there," Cr Aubin said.
"Real estate agents, they are getting hit pretty hard with inquiries from people from the city and elsewhere to come here.
"Our population expectations have probably been thrown out the window by this COVID thing."
The additional residents would increase the demands on Chifley Dam, which could be a real problem if Bathurst experiences a drought like it has just been through.
"I know now Chifley is 100 per cent, everything's rosy beautiful, everything looks green and gorgeous, but it's something that we have to be making plans for because we will get another drought," Cr Aubin said.
"We will, that's just the cycle we live in. We have to be ready for it."