City slickers still look to the regions, especially the Sunshine Coast

The Sunshine Coast has surged ahead as Australia’s most coveted region for movers, capturing a record share of net internal migration over the last year according to the latest Regional Movers Index (RMI).

However, regional Western Australia has also gained popularity, particularly with metro movers.

Data from the just-released December 2023 quarter RMI showed the net internal migration index to the regions increased 4.6 per cent over the past three months, which is its highest level since the 2022 quarter and 13.8 percent above the pre-Covid average.

The index, which is a partnership between Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) and the Regional Australia Institute (RAI), measures the number of people moving into the regions, relative to the number of people moving back to our capital cities. 

RAI Chief Executive Officer Liz Ritchie said the lure of regional living remained strong, with 24.9 per cent more people moving from the city to the regions, than from the regions to the city.

“Regional Australia offers something more for many people, especially those from big cities,” she said.  

“More space, more time, more affordability. 

“This shift, away from capital city living, has been underway now for a decade. 

“It was definitely super-charged by Covid, but this data proves the regions are still very desirable for a significant proportion of the population.”

Sydney shed the most people in the past 12 months, accounting for 65 per cent of all capital city outflows, followed by Melbourne at 35 per cent.

Regional NSW also accounted for the largest share of net inflows from capital cities, capturing 36 per cent of all city dwellers leaving the big smoke.

Regional Queensland followed at 32 per cent and regional Victoria at 30 per cent.

The Sunshine Coast (QLD), Gold Coast (QLD), Greater Geelong (VIC), Moorabool (VIC) and Fraser Coast (QLD) all made return appearances in the RMI’s regional hotspot list, by share of net internal migration.

However, the Sunshine Coast commanded an impressive lead, accounting for a 17.5 per cent share of all net internal migration, up from 12.5 per cent a year ago.

It eclipsed the next most attractive region, the Gold Coast, which has an 8.1 per cent share.

Commonwealth Bank Executive General Manager Regional and Agribusiness Banking Paul Fowler said the Sunshine Coast offered a wonderful lifestyle experience and was one of Queensland’s fastest-growing economies, so it was no surprise it had retained its coveted number one spot for the fifth quarter in a row.

“A skilled and diverse labour supply is one of the most critical inputs for any economy and Sunshine Coast businesses across a wide range of sectors are taking advantage of the growth in people coming to the area, moving at pace to explore new and innovative opportunities,” Mr Fowler said.

“The tug of regional NSW remains strong with communities relatively close to Sydney, such as Lake Macquarie, Cessnock and Maitland, making various hotspot lists.

“It’s always a highlight for me to spend time in the regions with our customers and last month I was delighted to spend a few days in Newcastle, Maitland and the Central Coast of NSW. 

“From the sunny beaches to the picturesque wineries, the Central Coast and Hunter region is a beautiful part of the world that contributes greatly to the Australian economy.

“With a strong local economy and significant activities being undertaken to diversify across sectors like infrastructure, defence, healthcare and manufacturing, we are really excited for the opportunities we have in the region, and to support more businesses in regional Australia.”

Western Australia emerged as home to some of the nation’s fastest growing regional LGAs this quarter, with the west taking out three of the top five growth hotspot positions as measured by annual growth in net internal migration inflows. 

“WA’s economy is strengthening beyond traditional resources, with wholesale trade, construction, professional services and agribusiness coming to the fore,” Mr Fowler said.

Ms Ritchie added that Western Australia was a standout performer with the Shire of Boddington, Shire of Bridgetown – Greenbushes and Greater Geraldton all in the top five growth hotspots.

“In the last 12 months the Shire of Boddington has seen a 219 per cent increase in net internal migration – with more than 70 per cent of the movers made up of Millennials and Gen Xers and almost all of those relocating to the area from Perth,” she said. 

“Meanwhile in Northam there has been an almost 93 per cent increase in net capital to regional migration.  

“Metro movers have developed a definite sweet spot for regions in the west.”

After historically high levels of movement across Australia in the last year, this quarter saw the number of people both regionally and city-based relocating, drop. 

This is attributed to the typical seasonal trend of reduced mobility in the last three months of the year; and the uncertainty that 2023 delivered through repeated interest rate rises, and high property prices.

Despite this, capital to regional migration remains 2.1 per cent above the pre-Covid average.

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Kylie Dulhunty

Kylie Dulhunty is the Editor at Elite Agent.

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