A move by the Australian Bureau of statistics (ABS) to revoke the "town" status of communities with a population of less than 200 has continued to cause outrage in the NSW Riverina.
Urana Shire mayor Margaret Buntin has thrown down the gauntlet by challenging Canberra bureaucrats to visit the region to see firsthand how the three communities which will be affected in her region (Boree Creek, Rand and Morundah) thrive as towns, regardless of their population.
"This shows the ABS are losing context around their decisions," Cr Buntin said.
"And for that reason I'd like them to come and have a look at these places and to meet the people.
"The towns and they most certainly are towns are full of dedicated, community-minded people who care deeply about and have pride in the place they live."
The ABS has defended the move this week which saw it incorporate the Australian Statistical Standard in place of the old Australian Geographical Classification effectively meaning towns of fewer than 200 people won't classify as a town under the standard.
A spokesperson for the ABS said it does not have a classification for the term “town” and plays no role in what is officially considered a town.
However, this is of little consolation to Cr Buntin, who said the decision could affect government services to the city or build a case for the proposed council amalgamations.
“The ABS is an official and trusted organisation,” she said.
“Their statistics are used by government organisations to argue for the provisions of important funding and services in things like education.”
Former deputy prime minister Tim Fischer – who owns a property at Boree Creek – said the decision by the ABS was “curious”, saying it was important for the government to be supporting rural farmers.
Member for Riverina Michael McCormack said he had written to Minister Tony Burke to get an assurance the move wasn’t a subversive attempt to downgrade federal government services.
“While I understand the ABS has to have some kind of classification, I plan to quantify with Minister Burke this won’t affect the delivery on services to the affected areas,” he said.