THE Central Goldfields Shire should prepare for a steady rise in its population over the next 15 years, a strategy report has found.
The shire adopted the Population, Housing and Residential Strategy at its May council meeting.
Central Goldfields Shire chief administrator Noel Harvey said the strategy gave the shire direction for future residential planning.
"We have done a lot of looking back to get the facts of history," he said. "A lot of people are making claims about population growth and decline, but it has never been based on real evidence.
"This is the first time we have done a real deep-dive analysis on what has gone on and what we can expect."
The strategy report, prepared by Spatial Economics, found the shire's population could increase by 0.8 per cent per year between 2020 to 2036.
But the report said the shire could also experience a more modest population growth of between 0.4 and 0.6 per cent.
The report showed those growth figures could mean an increase of between 815 and 1925 people in the next 15 years.
The shire would have to meet the demand for between 713 and 1304 additional dwellings.
"It's just about a realistic and factual base for our planning for the future," Mr Harvey said. "Our very location - in between Bendigo and Ballarat, and within two hours from Melbourne - indicates that we're going to experience more growth in the future."
The report said given the uncertainty around future population growth rates, the shire should not rely on a single growth forecast in its residential planning.
The report recommended the shire adopt a scenario-based approach to residential planing and monitor actual residential development trends on at least an annual basis.
The report also identified Maryborough and Carisbrook as the main focal points for housing development in the Central Goldfields Shire.
The report recommended the shire adopt a clear strategy for urban consolidation in Maryborough and ongoing farming development around Carisbrook.
The report said the shire should also look at the provision of suitable areas for low density residential and rural residential development in areas close to Maryborough and Carisbrook.
Mr Harvey said the shire would encourage population growth and residential development in the region.
"We believe it's a good thing to grow if we have the capacity," he said. "We can reasonably expect an improvement in lifestyle.
"People will be coming in who will want to work. That could lead to more jobs, which will be an upside."
Mr Harvey said while the strategy did not take into account COVID-19, he was confident the pandemic would not be a hurdle for the region.
"I guess we don't really know what the long-term impacts of COVID-19 will be," Mr Harvey said. "We can reasonably say there will be a slow down in growth across the state. It may slow us down.
"But I am absolutely confident we won't have negative growth. We might grow more slowly or maybe people will want to move to more regional areas. Our population growth may increase more."
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