POPULATION is likely to boom in most shires across central Victoria, according to projections released for the state.
Loddon Shire is the only central Victoria local government area likely to experience population decline by 2036.
Greater Bendigo and the Macedon Ranges are predicted to grow by 1.6 and 1.5 per cent respectively, putting them among the fastest growing local government areas in regional Victoria.
Greater Bendigo's growth rate follows only Greater Geelong and Ballarat of regional Victorian LGAs according to the projections from the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.
Mount Alexander and the Central Goldfields' forecast growth rate was more moderate, at 0.6 per cent and 0.4 per cent.
A slight decline is expected in the Loddon Shire, with -0.1 per cent fewer residents likely in 17 years time.
Regional Victoria overall is set to have a population of 1.8 million by 2036.
Greater Bendigo's population is forecast to grow by 37,710 by 2036.
The Macedon Ranges is set to grow at the second highest rate of central Victorian shires over the next 17 years.
DELWP's population projections suggest a growth of 15,260 people by 2036, taking the area's population from 49,390 to 64,640.
The local government area takes in Kyneton and Mount Macedon, as well as Gisborne, Woodend, Romsey and Lancefield, all close to Melbourne. Kyneton's population was 6591 in 2016, making it the second largest town in the shire.
Residents group Kyneton Connections president Eric Dearricott said Kyneton's convenient location, sense of being a country town and good community facilities brought in new residents.
When he moved to Kyneton in 1981 he lived in the second house built on an estate. Now there are more than 200, built mostly in the past 10 years.
It's just over an hour from central Melbourne, with more than 20 train services each day to Southern Cross Station.
Mr Dearricott said most Kyneton residents would welcome well-planned growth, which could give the community more facilities, but maintain the town's sense of community.
"Kyneton has always been a service town so that probably makes it more acceptable for growth, but within reason. [Residents] don't want to be deluged with a huge population increase within a short period," Mr Dearricott said.
"And they want the growth to be sympathetic to the town so that we can maintain our character."
Further north DELWP forecast Mount Alexander and the Central Goldfields will grow at a similar rate to each other until 2036.
About 920 more people will likely call the Central Goldfields home by 2036, bringing its population to 14,130.
Another 2300 people are expected in Mount Alexander, raising its total population from 19,510 to 21,810.
Castlemaine is home to the largest portion of Mount Alexander's population, with 6757 people in 2016. Maldon and Harcourt followed, with 1513 and 943 respectively.
Mount Alexander Shire Council has identified Harcourt as a small town which can accommodate population growth in the Loddon Mallee region.
Harcourt Progress Association secretary Jacqueline Brodie-Hanns said it was about time Harcourt had growth, after a stagnant 20 years.
Ms Brodie-Hanns many people thought the population had risen but that for every new person in town other people left.
She said Mount Alexander's accessibility and connectivity, close to Castlemaine, Bendigo and Melbourne, brought people to the area.
Growth in Harcourt would mean more economic opportunities for community members, such as employment, she said.
More people would also mean to town could sustain a supermarket and maybe 20 specialty shops, she said.
But Ms Brodie-Hanns said Harcourt did not want to compromise its agricultural future as it developed, as it was one of the most fertile areas in Mount Alexander.
Ms Brodie-Hanns said the opportunities for growth were greater in Harcourt than in other areas of Mount Alexander.
"On many levels it's a fresh slate, so we haven't seen a lot of growth, but now that it's been earmarked, we're planning it and we're going slowly," she said.
"There are examples in Mount Alexander that are quite scary because they represent all the things that are wrong with unchecked growth.
"The opportunities for growth are greater in Harcourt, and there seems to be a lot more planning and consideration going into it."
In Loddon, the area's low projected rate of growth was a surprise to some residents.
The shire sits to the north west of Bendigo, taking in Wedderburn, Inglewood, Bridgewater on Loddon and Pyramid Hill, with a population of 7510 in 2018.
DELWP predicts that 170 fewer people will live in the shire by 2036.
Wedderburn Steel's Butchers owner Tammy Martin said it felt as though lots of people had moved into the town in the past 18 months or two years.
She said blocks and houses seemed to be selling well in the town.
Miss Martin said she mainly met young families, with parents in their 30s and a few children, or people in their 50s and 60s nearing retirement at the butchers.
The feel of the town was as though the population was steady to rising, while the football club was doing well for numbers, she said.
She said the price range, accessibility and the country feel seemed to attract most people to Wedderburn.
Wedderburn was close enough to Bendigo that people could live there and work in the city, she said.
Miss Martin said the town lacked much business, but those that were there had enough trade.
"We're not making a million dollars, but we're all ticking along," she said.
"Wedderburn's probably sort of lucky. We've got one of everything, so we're not competing. We've just got enough, so we can all... survive."
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