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City-dwellers head for regional Australia in growing numbers

The number of city-dwellers tired of expensive, overpopulated cities and deciding to move to regional Australia has hit a 12-month high, according to new data.

The latest Regional Movers Index (RMI) shows metro-to-regional relocations have surged in the first quarter of the year – now sitting at 20 per cent above the pre-Covid average.

Overall, the regions recorded their fifth biggest quarter of influx from city-slickers in the past six years.

The Sunshine Coast continues to be the nation’s most popular destination for Australian movers, with a 16 per cent share of net internal migration flows over the past 12 months.

Sydney continues to be the nation’s biggest shedder of people, accounting for 67 per cent of net capital city outflows to the regions over the year to March 2024.

Regional NSW, Queensland, and Victoria accounted for 97 per cent of net capital outflows, up from 94 per cent in the year prior.

The Index is a partnership between Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) and the Regional Australia Institute (RAI), which analyses the quarterly and annual trends in people moving to and from Australia’s regional areas.

Commonwealth Bank’s Regional and Agribusiness Executive General Manager, Paul Fowler, said areas within a 150km radius of a capital city were among the most popular for metro-leaving movers.

Regional Australia Institute (RAI) Chief Executive Officer, Liz Ritchie, said areas within a 150km radius of a capital city were among the most popular for metro-leaving movers.

“The Sunshine Coast topped the list for the fifth consecutive quarter, with an 11.8 per cent share of net capital to regional migration, while the Gold Coast came in second place – with the highest quarterly growth rate of the top five – followed by Moorabool (Vic), Lake Macquarie (NSW) and Greater Geelong (Vic),” Mr Fowler said.

Western Australia also shaped up as an increasingly attractive destination with Capel, Greater Geraldton, Northam and Albany all making their way onto various hotspot lists this quarter.

“Regional LGAs on, or near, the sea were found to be this quarter’s top five growth regional hotspots, with Capel in the south-west of Western Australia making its debut in the top five with a near five-fold increase in net internal migration inflows on the back of its popularity amongst regional movers,” Mr Fowler said.

“What this shows us is many Australians are still seizing their sea change dreams.”

Mr Fowler, said in all seven capital cities analysed, millennials (born between 1981 and 1995) were the demographic most on the move, with the Gold Coast emerging as a firm favourite across the nation.

“This quarter’s report paints the picture of younger individuals or younger families looking for somewhere that’s more affordable,” Mr Fowler said.

“Many are opting for the large regional centres which are buzzing with business activity and investment, offering a great range of employment opportunities.”

Regional Australia Institute Chief Executive Officer, Liz Ritchie, said there was also a clear trend emerging regarding where metro movers were originally living, and where they’d chosen to relocate to.

“With high house prices and cost-of-living pressures biting, many people are realising the regions can offer the lifestyle they want and the jobs they’re after, minus big city problems – like long commute times, tolls and traffic,” she said.

Ms Ritchie said the data showed the nation’s regional renaissance was far from over, with 24 per cent more people moving from the city to regions, than the other direction.

“People are voting with their feet and making a very conscious decision to live in regional Australia,” she said.

“Whilst the pandemic supercharged this movement, the regional lifestyle is continuing to prove highly desirable for thousands of people, especially those from cities.”

She said the population shift could no longer be seen as a quirky flow-on effect from the lockdown years.

“A societal shift is underway,” she said.

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Rowan Crosby

Rowan Crosby is a senior journalist at Elite Agent specialising in finance and real estate.