When a town isn't a town

Local councils have put their support behind small towns in central Victoria, after proposed changes that will see towns with populations of less than 200 stripped of their official status.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has decreed that places with fewer than 200 people per square kilometre according to 2011 census data, will no longer be classified as towns.

Villages, boroughs, hamlets or small towns have been suggested as alternative titles.

It is unclear which small towns in central Victoria will be affected until the formula is applied.

However, a survey conducted by Fairfax shows many towns could be under threat.

City of Greater Bendigo councillor Rod Fyffe said he was concerned about the impact the changes could have.

“When you lose that identity it makes it very difficult to make advances at a government level and at a not-for-profit level,” he said. 

“People are more likely to support towns than any other thing they want to call it instead.”

Loddon Shire mayor Geoff Curnow said the council would support the many small towns that made up the shire.

“We have good thriving communities that are made up of smaller numbers of people,” he said.

“Some towns have a lot of pride in the fact they are a town; a community that works together as a town.”

Cr Curnow said the people making decisions were out of touch with residents living in small rural towns.

“I guess the people in the ABS are a long way from a town and wouldn’t know what it’s like to live in the country,” he said. 

“They make rules to suit themselves rather than consulting people who choose to live in towns.”

Former Rural Councils Victoria chairman Ken Gale said small towns relied on their title to foster a sense of community.

“The concept does worry me,” he said. “There’s a lot of history within those small towns.

“It could really impact on their sense of identity and sense of community.”

Mr Gale said such a change could have a fatal impact on small towns.

“Once you lose your identify and places like your school, local store or pub, that’s the end of it,” he said. “And the worst thing with that is once it’s gone it never comes back.”

Mr Gale said he thought most councils would fight for their small towns. 

“A lot of those councils in those areas do support their small communities,” he said. 

“Even through they are small they have a sense of community; their name is at the centre of their being.”