ARARAT - Ararat Rural City's population has fallen slightly according to data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which contrasts with a population growth for the Ararat township itself.
Figures for the municipality have been obtained by Ararat Rural City Council as part of the first release of data by the ABS for the 2011 Census and compares with figures following the 2006 Census.
The data shows the population for the municipality, or Ararat Rural City local government area fell by .65 per cent between 2006 and 2011, however, data for the the Ararat Township Statistical Area shows an 11.2 per cent increase between 2006 and 2011.
By comparison Northern Grampians Shire has fallen by .56 per cent and Pyrenees Shire has risen 1.69 per cent between census periods.
This data presented to council was taken from the Age By Sex table, which counts people that have ticked that they were residents in Ararat at the time of the Census. The table also includes residents who normally reside in Ararat, but were absent on census night either overseas or elsewhere in Australia. These figures do not include visitors to the Ararat region.
Across the municipality, population in the five to 14 year age group, 15-19, 20-24, 35-44, and 45-54 age groups dropped, with the highest rise in population among the 85 years and over and four years and under age groups.
Cr Anne Marshall the increase of the under four and over 85 population was interesting and encouraging.
"It just shows that maybe we are doing something right for our elderly in Ararat," she said.
In Ararat itself, all age group populations rose, with the highest rise being the 85 years and over, 20.28 percent and 20-24 year age group, 19.52 percent.
"From an economic development point of view, the figures are disappointing as our data was indicating a potential increase," Neil Manning, Director Council Services, said.
"The decline in the rural population was an area that we were unable to track as while farming properties may have seen generational change, we cannot track the movement off farm where the senior members of a farm family may move in to town or out of the region."
Mr Manning said data on Ararat's rural towns will be released in August by the ABS along with more detailed personal data such as where people are working both coming in to and out of the municipality.
Cr Gwenda Allgood reiterated this issue and said a recent tour of Ararat's Bartco and AME Systems highlighted the number of people travelling into the municipality to work, but also pointed out the reverse, with people travelling away to work but living in Ararat.
"One of the things I suppose crosses my mind is the issue of people travelling to Ararat for the work they are doing here - is it because we've had such a struggle with blocks of land?
"We've got Evans Park up and running and got other areas in the town, but we have struggled for some time about that choice of where people come and where they live.
"I just think that now we're able to sort our way through all that we might see a bigger increase, because we were having trouble being able to build in Lake Bolac and now the sewerage has gone on and maybe that will increase the population down there, so there's a lot of good positive things we can look forward to, "she said.
Mr Manning said the Estimated Residential Population (ERP) for 2012 still remains at 12,070 but this will now have to be downgraded for several years as this calculation was to include the opening of the prison extension, which would have seen all new prisoners and relocated staff counted in the Ararat census in future.