Will the city fathers of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane wake up one day to find that their once-thriving metros have suddenly become near-ghost towns … like some old WA mining community where the gold ran out and everyone left almost overnight to seek their fortune elsewhere?
Probably not. But what seems certain from a new study is that the pandemic and the new work-from-home reality is spurring unprecedented numbers of Aussies to pack in their expensive and rushed big-city lifestyles to head for somewhere quieter and more serene.
A new study by the Regional Australia Institute and the Commonwealth Bank shows population movements from Australian capital cities to regional areas rose by seven percent from March 2020 to March 2021 – helping to drive net regional migration in the latest quarter 66 percent higher than a year earlier.
Big gains for coastal centres close to cities
The Regional Movers Index reveals the regional communities getting the largest annual share of new migrants from the capital cities are those which are, unsurprisingly, coastal centres fairly close to the capitals.
Many of Brisbane’s ‘refugees’, for example, are heading just down the road to the Gold Coast (an 11 percent increase in migrants) and Sunshine Coast (a 6 percent increase).
Victoria’s Greater Geelong (4 percent) gained the most from those who’d had enough of Melbourne, while NSW’s Wollongong (3 percent) and Newcastle (2 percent) gained the most from fleeing Sydneysiders.
Among the other smaller regional government areas showing big gains in population from the cities are Noosa Heads, Southern Downs and Fraser Coast in Queensland; Port Macquarie-Hastings in NSW; and Launceston in Tasmania.
Figures show strength and appeal of regions
“These figures show the strength and appeal of regional Australia and the important role it will continue to play in Australia’s economic recovery,” said Grant Cairns, a senior Commonwealth Bank executive and a council member of the Regional Australia Institute.
“The Index demonstrates how Australians formerly living in capital cities have embraced remote ways of working as an opportunity to experience what these areas have to offer, while those already in regional areas are finding reasons to stay.”
Liz Ritchie, CEO of the institute, agreed. “The index shows it’s not just people in our major cities who are realising the opportunities and value provided by regional living. People already living in our regions are increasingly choosing to stay, rather than head for the bright city lights,” she said.