IS THERE a man shortage on the Northern Rivers? It depends what side of the fence you sit on.
A survey by The Northern Star found that most single gals say "yes there is", while many men and coupled-up women say the fairer sex are just too fussy.
On the latter point they are at one with a Catholic priest who this week advised Aussie women to marry earlier and avoid the "man drought".
It's drastic advice, especially if you want to hang out for "Mr Right" - ideally a cross between Johnny Depp and George Clooney or, as Northern Rivers many women told us "employed, honest and attractive". (Now that's hardly fussy is it?)
But the bad news is that Australia continues to experience a huge decline in the number of available men - they're going overseas for lucrative salaries plus there's a natural man excess anyway.
This has been documented by demographer Bernard Salt in his book The Man Drought and raised again this week by Federal Liberal MP Kevin Andrews.
He's researching changes in marriage and families in Australia and has suggested that the swing towards de facto partnerships isn't helping more women get hitched.
Mr Andrews has been backed up by a Catholic priest who believes women should forget about living with their partners before tying the knot and just hook 'em while they can.
Father Tony Kerin, episcopal vicar for justice and social service in the Archdiocese of Melbourne, said today's women wanted the best of both worlds.
"Are women getting too choosy? I'd say yes," he said. "I think many are setting aside their aspirations for later, but by the time they get around to it, they've missed their chance. In trying to have it all, they end up missing out."
Mr Salt told the Northern Star that the dire figures in his book about an undersupply of men, especially in coastal areas, still hold true.
"There is always an oversupply of single women in coastal towns," he said.
According to Mr Salt, Ballina and Byron Bay are the worst hit if you are to find a mate aged between 30 and 40. There are 1500 more women than men aged 30 to 39 on the coast.
And, if you are looking for that elusive 40-year-old partner, your chances are even slimmer. Women outnumber men by 16% in this age group.
Those in their 40s and 50s hoping for Cupid's arrow, told us the situ- ation is equally desperate.
"Is there a man drought? Absolutely!" said Carol, a 52-year-old shop assistant.
"Since I moved here two years ago from Brisbane, I'd say you could fire a barrel down the street and not hit an attractive, available man."
Said Kate, a 36-year-old business owner from Lismore: "I've had one date in five years and I would definitely say that I am not fussy.
"All I want is someone to have dinner with, or see a band; just a companion.
"I have a well-paid job and I am self-sufficient. But there is a very limited number of men out there."
There may not be a man shortage as much as there's a lack of quality, single men who are willing to part with their single lifestyle, says Sarah, a 29-year-old musician from Ballina.
"I've lived on the Northern Rivers for seven years and I actually don't remember the last time I went on a 'date', she said.
"Am I picky? Well, yes. But I don't see the point in dating guys I don't have a connection with."
She added: "I do tend to go out to nightclubs so perhaps this is why I meet the wrong guys… but I don't think I'm looking my best at the gym, out running or at my desk at work. So, where else is there?"
Rikki Grinberg, of Ballina Beach Village, which will soon host a Bachelors and Spinsters Muster, says: "Before my career as a resort owner, I was a psychologist working largely with youth.
"I think the problem with most blokes is that they don't know how to ask for a date. Many girls are surprised to find out that 'so and so' was interested in them and response often was 'well how would I know that, he never said anything' which always amused me.
"Most blokes hang around in mute and sullen silence hoping a miracle will happen and the girl of their dreams will acquire psychic powers and read their minds! Well it doesn't happen like that.
"I don't think that there is a dearth of blokes, I think they are all clumping together like frightened starlings in pubs and garages wondering how in the world will they ever meet a girl!"
Agrees Stephen, 34, of Casino: "I don't know about the man shortage, but you can send women this way when you find them."
Mr Salt's advice for all the single ladies looking for someone to put a ring on it - get out of coastal towns and head west of the Great Divide.