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  • Writer's pictureFlow Australia

The great escape from Sydney to country Australia

The Regional Movers Index shows Australians continue to leave the cities for the country after COVID-19 lockdowns, but the rush to the regions is slowing.

The harbour city appears to be losing some of its sparkle, as Sydneysiders escape to the regions and many choose Brisbane or Perth as their new homes.

Figures tracking movements between regional Australia and the capital cities show former Sydney residents make up 90 per cent of net migration away from the cities, a jump from an average 61 per cent.

The Regional Movers Index, which uses bank data to track internal migration, found Brisbane and Perth were the most appealing cities for people moving from both the regions and other capitals.

The pandemic-driven lure of a quiet life in the country continues, with regional migration increasing 7.9 per cent in the March quarter, the third highest level since reporting began in 2018.

The Commonwealth Bank's head of regional and agribusiness Paul Fowler said the demand for workers and competition for skilled labour was driving greater population movement across Australia.

"With both strong city-to-regions movement and regions-to-city movement, the overall level of mobility is at record levels," Mr Fowler told reporters on Wednesday.

"We see that as a positive factor for the economy."

The five areas with the largest share of internal migrants in the year to March were the Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast, Fraser Coast and Bundaberg in Queensland and greater Geelong in Victoria.

"Regional centres are buzzing with business activity and investment, offering an abundance of opportunities to people who are seeking to leave the strain of cities to take advantage of the benefits of regional living," Mr Fowler said.

Townsville in northern Queensland was also a high-growth area, along with Port Lincoln in South Australia, and Campaspe, Pyrenees and Moorabool in Victoria.

Work opportunities in defence are drawing people to Townsville, which also has strong healthcare, agriculture and manufacturing industries.

While the number of people moving from the cities to the regions was elevated, there were signs regional migration was beginning to slow. 

Movement from the cities to the country represented 12 per cent of all domestic migration, compared to 11 per cent before COVID-19 lockdowns, the report showed.

The Regional Movers Index is released quarterly and is a collaboration between the Regional Australia Institute and the CBA.

The institute's chief economist Kim Houghton said the think tank had observed country towns boom until housing dries up, then driving new residents to neighbouring regions. 

Chief executive Liz Ritchie said recent research showed one in five city residents were considering a move to the regions because of affordability.

"Cost-of-living pressures are also boosting greater movement within the regions themselves, as regional movers also search out places with more available and affordable housing," Ms Ritchie said.


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