Population decline a concern for most Eyre Peninsula councils

Only one West Coast council has been able to buck the trend of falling population numbers on Eyre Peninsula.

According to census data, the Streaky Bay District Council area has seen a rise in population from 2024 people in 2006 to 2074 in the most recent census in 2016.

While the district did see an overall rise during the decade, the population fell in the five years from the 2011 census which had the figure at 2102.

Streaky Bay District Council chief executive officer Joy Hentschke said the town offered an attractive lifestyle choice and had plenty of facilities.

“As a new person to town, my observation is it’s a clean, neat and well laid-out township that has all the basic amenities like a doctor, dentist, school, shops, tradesmen, an aged care facility and churches, with reasonable real estate prices and quality, while the roads and infrastructure are very good,” she said.

“It also has the lifestyle, with access to good beaches and camping areas.”

Ms Hentschke said there was work available in the district and the goal was to capitalise on improved technology.

“It is a concern that throughout the region numbers are falling, although I have heard anecdotal evidence of younger people who left town that are now returning to raise families,” she said.

“In Streaky, if you want the work you can get it – but it may not be full-time which is the difference – in anything from the oyster sector to trades, and there is a very active cultural and artistic sector, and a hidden micro business sector which comes out a few times a year when there are markets and events, and we want to see them growing and getting more exposure.

“We want to develop our district and while we are remote, most have quite good internet which allows us to be connected, so we need to capitalise and provide an environment to work remotely.”

In the period between 2006 and 2016, the Ceduna population was down 164 people from 3572 to 3408.

There were also drops for Wudinna and Elliston, who lost 62 and 87 people respectively to now have populations of 1250 and 1045.

Ceduna mayor Allan Suter pointed to greater employment opportunities in metropolitan areas as the reason behind the decline.

“It’s the same as every other regional area, more government investment in city areas creates employment there and less in regional areas,” he said.

“It exacerbates the trend and most rural areas are suffering setbacks.

“The annoying thing is when the opportunity to increase employment arises, quite often movements in cities oppose various forms of development – we have people who have never been in our areas protesting about potential development, it is fine for them to sit in their offices being negative.”

Mr Suter said regional areas had a better standard of living, but people needed jobs.

Wudinna District Council economic and community development officer Craig Midgley said changes in employment patterns affected the district’s numbers.

He said while it was concerning, the aim was to make communities more attractive for people to live and for employers to create businesses.

“We have got to look at strategies with state and federal governments to get people to regional areas,” he said.

“We have to encourage more industries and employment opportunities, and make communities attractive for certain growth, for example retired people.

“At Wudinna the health sector is a growth area and having a strong health sector is important, so senior people might want to come here and invest in a property.”

Elliston District Council chief executive officer Phil Cameron said changes in farming practices had an impact in the region.

“Farm holdings are getting larger and the number of people operating it is falling, with bigger machinery,” he said.

“Employment is key and apart from something like a teacher or nurse or working with the council, the main industries are farming, tourism and fishing – if something like the Warramboo Iron Road project happens it would inject people into the region.”

Mr Cameron said enticing just one or two people could help swell numbers as whole families would move to the region.

He said the creation of an Eyre Peninsula-wide strategy to increase population numbers could be a way to go.