Rimas Veselis - 18 Aug, 2021

COVID-19 Impacts Continue as More People Relocate to Regional Areas

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Newly released studies by Commonwealth Bank and the Regional Australia Institute (RAI) show that an increasing number of Australians are relocating from metropolitan to regional areas as a result of COVID-19.

Between March 2020 and March 2021, the migration of the population from CBD’s to regional areas rose by 7%, according to the first-ever RAI-CBI Regional Movers Index.

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When comparing the most recently passed quarter to the same period of the previous year, the relocation of Australians to more regional areas has jumped by 66%.

Additionally, many Australians already living in regional areas are increasingly opting to stay in place, leading the total shift of regional dwellers to metropolitan areas to decrease by 0.2% over the past year.

Surveying the total population migration since the COVID-19 outbreak, five local government areas have received the highest share of capital to regional migration: the most popular choice being Gold Coast, QLD (11%), followed by Sunshine Coast, QLD (6%), Greater Geelong, VIC (4%), Wollongong, NSW (3%), and lastly, Newcastle, NSW (2%).

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The Regional Movers Index report also highlighted the top five LGAs who have received the greatest annual growth in relocations to their region: sitting at the top is Noosa, QLD (49%), then Southern Downs, QLD (44%), Port Macquarie-Hastings, NSW (38%), Launceston, TAS (34%), and the QLD Fraser Coast (26%).

The study also shows the capital city net overflows and regional area net inflows, or the flow of Australians leaving capital cities for more regional areas within the same state within the March 2021 quarter. 

The majority of the capital city net outflows since the COVID-19 pandemic began, came from Sydney and Melbourne, which combined accounted for 95.9% of the entire outflow population.

regional road in Australia with red dirt during covid-19

Accordingly, regional New South Wales, Queensland, and Victoria were the biggest recipients of the net inflow, receiving 89% collectively.

Grant Cairns, the Executive General Manager for Regional and Agribusiness Banking for Commonwealth Bank and Regional Australia Institute 2031 Council Member, believes that this significant shift towards regional life is an overall positive change.

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“These figures show the strength and appeal of regional Australia and the important role it will continue to play in Australia’s economic recovery. 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,” Mr Cairns said.

“I’m optimistic about what this growth means for regional Australia, as more people experience the livability of our regional areas and embrace the associated work-life balance and affordability.”

While most regional areas are more affordable to buy and rent than major cities, some extremely desirable areas are bucking the trend. 

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Once a quaint fishermen’s paradise, Byron Bay has now become one of the most expensive areas in the country to purchase a home. 

The latest Domain House Price Report shows that the median house price at Australia’s most easterly point has risen an astoundingly 126.4 per cent over the last five years to 1.585 million, a figure more than $100,000 higher than Sydney’s median price of 1.41 million. 

aerial shot of the pass at Byron Bay during covid-19

Su Reynolds of First National Byron believes that the latest COVID-19 lockdowns have played a significant role in prices rising even higher than the 2020 hot market. 

“Now, stock is even more limited than it was in the first round so prices are rising again quickly,” Reynolds said. 

“You often hear people in the supermarket or by the shops saying, ‘Oh! You’ve come here too!’ It’s almost as if they’ve brought their community with them.”

Along with Byron Bay, the towns of Ballina and Lismore have also had sizeable median price growth at over 34 per cent.

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Words by Rimas Veselis 

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