It is now cheaper to buy a block of land in Mingenew than a sausage roll at the local bakery after nine lots went on the market for $1 each last week. The Shire put the blocks up for sale last Wednesday, and chief executive Nils Hay said the bold project had little to do with money but rather enticing people to join the small Mid West community. He said each applicant was required to detail how they would contribute to the town, whether that was joining the local footy club or starting a business. “It’s an easy opportunity for somebody to join the community,” he said. Mr Hay said the Shire was also open to accepting applications from businesses that needed space to house workers, or people who planned to build new rental properties. Contractually, buyers would be required to build on the land within two years, or they would have to return it to the Shire or pay market value. Mr Hay said the goal was to lower the barrier of entry for people who were considering moving to Mingenew. He said the Shire had already received some expressions of interest, although it was still early days. Mingenew has faced a population drain in recent years, with the number of locals falling quite rapidly over the past decade. Mr Hay said this was partly due to farms moving from sheep to grain, which is far less labour-intensive. He said there used to be three shearing teams in town, and now there wasn’t a single shearer based in Mingenew permanently. “It’s a story you’ll see a lot in this part of the world,” he said. In 2011, Census data showed a Mingenew population of 480, but, by 2016, that tally had dropped to 282. That same Census showed around 33 per cent of residents were over 55, making it a crucial time for Mingenew to bolster its population. Mr Hay said the land project was a strategic move to bring more working-aged people to town who would spend money at the local shops, drink beers at the pub, and join local clubs. Back in 2004, the Wheatbelt Shire of Bruce Rock was suffering a similar problem and tried a similar solution. Its population fell from 1164 in 1991 to just 1000 in 2001, so it decided to give away blocks of land for free on the condition the purchasers commenced building within 12 months. Although the population there has continued to decline gradually, Bruce Rock Shire president Stephen Strange said it had a positive impact on the services available in the community. “We didn’t have a plumber in town but one came,” he said.