NSW overtakes QLD as most popular location for people leaving the cities

According to the Regional Movers Index (RMI), two in five people (39 per cent) moving from cities, headed to regional NSW in the 12 months to September 2023, up from 26 per cent last year.

In comparison, regional Queensland now accounts for 33 per cent of net outflows, down from 37 per cent a year ago.

With regional Victoria the third most popular destination, accounting for 21 per cent of all net capital outflows.

Regional Australia Institute (RAI) Chief Executive Officer Liz Ritchie said Sydneysiders were leading the charge when it comes to regional relocations.

“When you look at all the people who left cities for the regions in the last year, 80 per cent of them came from Sydney,” Ms Ritchie said.

“In the 12 months to September 2022, it was just over 60 per cent. 

“It suggests that the bigger our cities get, the stronger the draw to our wonderful regions becomes.”

Ms Ritchie said the Snowy Valleys Local Government Area (LGA) in southern NSW was the most popular location for movers, recording a more than 200 per cent increase in net internal migration over the past quarter and an almost 130 per cent increase over the past year.

Other increasingly popular LGAs in regional NSW include Greater Hume Shire, Ballina, Cessnock, and Lake Macquarie.

Ms Ritchie said the data showed Australia continued to have a highly mobile population, with the overall number of movers this quarter, at its third highest level since March 2018.

“RMI data is repeatedly showing the exodus of people from capital cities wasn’t a short-lived phenomenon due to pandemic lockdowns, with capital to regional migration levels currently 11.7 per cent above the pre-Covid (2018 and 2019) average,” she said.

She said in September there were 91,400 jobs advertised in regional Australia, which is partly why there was such strong migration to the country communities. 

Commonwealth Bank Executive General Manager Regional and Agribusiness Banking Paul Fowler said growth in regional Western Australia, Victoria and Queensland also remained strong.

He said the Sunshine Coast was the most popular destination for movers, topping the top five list for the fourth consecutive quarter, followed by Greater Geelong.

Waroona (WA), Greater Geraldton (WA), Snowy Valleys (NSW), Golden Plains (Vic) and Douglas (Qld) made up the top five highest-growth regional hotspots, in terms of net internal migration, in the 12 months to September 2023.

“Regional centres like these are buzzing with business activity and investment and offer the lifestyle benefits of a regional location – more affordable housing, cheaper cost of living, less traffic congestion, strong community connections – within comfortable commuting distance of capital cities,” Mr Fowler said.

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Rowan Crosby

Rowan Crosby is a freelance journalist specialising in finance and real estate.