More young Aussies embracing the regional lifestyle

by Mina Martin24 Jun 2022

Local businesses in regional areas across Australia are bursting with new opportunities as more Australians migrate from capital cities, with millennials and Gen-Xers accounting for the largest proportion of people moving to such areas as Ceduna, Mount Gambier and Port Augusta in South Australia, Moorabool in Victoria, and Western Downs in Queensland.

These areas represent the country’s top five growing local government areas in the 12 months to March, according to the Commonwealth Bank and Regional Australia Institute’s Regional Movers Index, which also revealed a 16.6% increase in the number of people moving to regional areas to reach a new five-year high, almost doubling pre-pandemic levels.

Paul Fowler, CBA regional and agribusiness banking executive general manager, said more young people and families were taking advantage of what regional areas had to offer.

Data showed that millennials and Gen-Xers accounted for the largest proportion of regional movers to the top five growth regions: Port Augusta (83%), Ceduna (81%), Mount Gambier (79%), Victoria’s Moorabool (76%), and Queensland’s Western Downs (69%).

“Regional Australia is thriving, fuelled by strong investment across a broad range of industries including agriculture, manufacturing, retail and hospitality,” Fowler said. “There are labour shortages in many parts of regional Australia and local businesses are attracting skilled and unskilled workers to increase capacity and serve growing demand for products and services.”

Population growth has led to the development of regional centres, with many businesses expanding or tapping into new local and global markets.

A standout when it comes to growth in regional areas has been South Australia, which saw a 114% jump in the number of Aussies moving to Ceduna in the 12 months to March 2022. Growth in Mount Gambier and Port Augusta was also high, at 85% and 74%, respectively. In other states, both Moorabool in Victoria and Western Downs in Queensland experienced a 56% growth each.

Natasha Greenwood, CBA’s general manager South Australia, Western Australia, and Northern Territory, said regional areas in South Australia (such as Mount Gambier) were growing rapidly and this has resulted in new business opportunities and increased production.

Mount Gambier has a thriving, “drought-proof” agriculture sector that produces everything from grains, potatoes, and onions along with livestock and dairy. The region is also world-famous for its viticulture and fisheries.

CoreLogic data showed that regional South Australia has the lowest median property prices across Australia. The popularity and growth of South Australian regional towns was also reflected in transaction volumes, dwelling price growth, and the tightening rental market, Greenwood said.

The median property price in Mount Gambier in the three months to February was $333,000 – 44% lower than Adelaide’s median of $593,883. In Ceduna, the median dwelling price of $283,000 was less than half Adelaide’s median.

“Affordable housing and the opportunity for a lifestyle near the coast is drawing more young people and families,” Greenwood said. “There is tremendous confidence in business and this is reflected in the activity of our South Australian team which has experienced a record year of new lending.”

Queensland, meanwhile, remains the most popular destination overall, with the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast attracting the largest proportion of people from the major capitals.

The biggest outflows were from Sydney and Melbourne, with most people heading to regional NSW, Queensland, and Victoria.

Kerry McGowan, CBA’s general manager Queensland and Northern NSW, said strong population growth and tight supply resulted in a thriving property market in key regional hubs over the past 12 months.

Regional areas such as Western Downs in Queensland have strong agriculture production and exports that are supported by a range of ancillary industries, including manufacturing and logistics, which generates new employment opportunities and attracts more people to the region.

Another region of burgeoning growth was Toowoomba, where agtech was a growing industry and which boasts the quickest rate for house sales, with the median time on market over the 12 months to April was just 13 days.

“Areas such as Toowoomba are growing rapidly and this is leading to a huge increase in demand for key services, like health,” McGowan said.

St Andrews Toowoomba Hospital, a not-for-profit, 155-bed acute care private hospital employing 700 staff members with around 30,000 admitted patients a year, “has experienced a doubling of industry year-on-year activity levels and has invested significantly to grow the facility to cater for increased demand,” McGowan said.

Dominic Westendorf, CBA’s general manager regional agribusiness banking Victoria and Tasmania, said regional areas such as the Moorabool Shire in Victoria were also thriving.

“The region has experienced strong population growth in recent years with expanding townships such as Bacchus Marsh and Ballan,” Westendorf said. “The shire has a deep and rich mixed farming history that remains vibrant and has successfully been blended with demands of population growth. CBA has a long and enduring history in the region and we’re very excited to support ongoing sustained growth for the shire.”