Official figures have revealed the population of Wagga’s northern suburbs are growing at a faster rate than Sydney.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Sydney’s population grew by 2 per cent while Boorooma, Estella and Gobbagombalin had grown by 3.5 per cent.
While net overseas migration was the major contributor to Sydney's population growth, adding 84,700 people in 2016-17, the local growth was more likely a result of young professionals coming to the city and students moving to Wagga for university.
But the long-term figures revealed another unlikely winner in the population race, with Junee booming by 25 per cent in 15 years, going from 3589 people in 2001 to 4762 in 2016.
Junee mayor Neil Smith was pleased with the figures and said it was great news for the town.
“Junee used to be a well-kept secret but now the secret’s out,” Cr Smith said.
“There’s a lot of things that have put Junee on the map, tourist attractions like the licorice factory and roundhouse museum have seen people make the tree change too.”
Proximity to the major centre of Wagga was also one of Junee’s strengths, Cr Smith said.
“Wagga’s a big regional centre, with the military bases and university and other things that have built a drought-proof economy,” he said.
“Junee wouldn’t be half the place it is without Wagga down the road, but we’ve still got that sense of community and all the services of Wagga.”
But the long-term numbers were more concerning for two towns in particular, with Narrandera and Hay’s populations dropping by almost 10 per cent in the past 15 years.
Long-term growth was fairly stagnant across the rest of the Riverina, with the number of Australian citizens leaving towns offset by foreign migrants coming in, albeit in small numbers.
Leeton and Gundagai had fairly stable populations in the same period, while Cootamundra slowly grew.
Unsurprisingly, Griffith and Wagga showed the strongest growth in the region across the 15 year period, with 3000 and 4000 respectively making the cities their homes. Long-term, the biggest growth for Wagga was east towards Forest Hill and north in the Estella area, where the median age was just 28 years old.