Birth rates: Baby numbers increase regional populations

BIRTH RATES: Cowra, Parkes, Hilltops and Cootamundra-Gundagai birth rates under the spotlight. Photo: FILE
BIRTH RATES: Cowra, Parkes, Hilltops and Cootamundra-Gundagai birth rates under the spotlight. Photo: FILE

THE number of babies being born in the region is booming, with the rate in one town up by 24.5 per cent, new data shows.

During 2018, 745 babies were born in the Cowra, Hilltops, Parkes and Cootamundra-Gundagai local government areas, data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) shows.

This is up by 14.1 per cent on the year before when 653 newborns were welcomed.

Hilltops had the highest number of births at 251 which was up 7.7 per cent on the 233 the year prior.

This was followed by Parkes at 221 (up 22.7 per cent on 180 births), Cowra at 151 (up 6.3 per cent on 142 babes) and Cootamundra-Gundagai at 122 (up 24.5 per cent on 98 bubs).

The ABS report also showed that fertility rates in the four council areas were higher than the national rate of 1.74 births per woman.

Hilltops has the highest rate at 2.37, followed by Parkes (2.32), Cowra (2.26) and Cootamundra-Gundagai (2.08).

Mayors in the region said the rising birth rates were good news for the long-term future of regional towns.

In Parkes...

Parkes mayor Ken Keith said while an increase in births was good for the shire's long-term future, the shut down of birthing services at Parkes Hospital in June 2019 had a "disconcerting impact on the town and on mothers".

"They're looking at trying to set up a midwife type model where they deliver the baby but there's no medical back-up," he said.

While midwife services for pregnant women in Parkes are still in operation, Cr Keith said council was keen to get birthing services reinstated.

Meanwhile, he said council had plans to help support young people in Parkes and to help retain them once they finished school.

"At the moment we're extending our library and included in that we'll have the Country Universities Centre," he said.

Cr Keith said this would help improve higher educational opportunities for people in the Parkes shire.

In Cowra...

Cowra mayor Bill West said the ABS data demonstrated just how vital local hospital maternity services were to the community.

"My great fear is if Parkes has trouble this week [with its closed maternity services], it could be Forbes or Cowra next week," he said

"This data demonstrates that it's a vital service. There's a vital need to have a maternity service."

Cr West said this data helped council to plan services, roads and infrastructure into the future to meet the growing needs of the community.

In the Hilltops...

Hilltops mayor Brian Ingram said the planned Country Universities Centre (CUC) in Young would encourage young people to stay in the area.

"We've got great educational facilities and we've got great health facilities and the next step is to retain people once they get to 18 years," he said.

Cr Ingram said the CUC would give young people the opportunity to undertake tertiary studies in Young and council already had a designated space for the centre pending its approval.

"It's for people who want to go to uni but don't want to leave town," he said.

In Cootamundra-Gundagai...

Cootamundra-Gundagai mayor Abb McAlister said he has noticed a growing population in the area, including those staying on or returning to the land during the past decade.

This, he said, would lead to an increase in the number of births in the local government area.

"Technology means that people don't have to go to Canberra or Sydney to do their work and that they can stay here," Cr McAlister said.

He said council undertook strategic planning for the future of the region and its growing population.

"It's not a mass explosion [of births], it's just a slow thing so we can handle it as we grow," Cr McAlister said.

"It's just great for the whole community ... it's so much more pleasant to bring up children in these locations."

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