LIVING mortgage-free, without traffic lights and crowds are among the incentives being slung in a nationwide campaign to entice metropolitan residents to move to regional Australia.
The launch of the multimillion-dollar advertising blitz comes as hundreds of government and business heads unite at this week’s Regional Australia summit in Canberra to map out an action-plan for growing our regions.
Two-thirds of Australians live in capital cities, and last year the ABS recorded the biggest internal migration to regional areas on record, with a net loss of 11,200 people from Australia’s capitals to the regions. The Regional Australia Institute (RAI) is now examining the potential for up to 40 per cent of the population to live regionally, on the back of research showing that one in five city dwellers are keen to relocate.
“We want to rebalance the population across the nation,” said RAI CEO Liz Ritchie.
A concern about limited job opportunities is one of the biggest barriers to people making the move, despite the latest job figures topping 54,000 regional vacancies.
With the COVID-19 pandemic prompting a dramatic shift in workplace flexibility, governments are being pushed to co-fund co-work spaces to further remove barriers to regional employment.
“This is not a technology issue, it’s a leadership issue,” Ms Ritchie said, adding that the pandemic catapulted businesses at least 10 years ahead in terms of progress towards flexible workplaces.
But it isn’t just about accessing city jobs from the country, with the digitisation of agriculture seeing a rise in white collar roles in rural and regional areas.
Agricultural service provider, Nutrien Ag Solutions is crying out for data analysts, technology experts and other skilled professionals across its 400 sites to keep up with the increasing sophistication of agricultural practices.
“15 years ago we were looking for wool guys and livestock agents, but now it’s all about the tech jobs,” said managing director Rob Clayton.
“Skilled workers from the city can make the same kind of money, in towns where the cost of living is halved. You don’t have to sit in traffic all day and spend your whole life paying off your house.”
Coca-Cola Amatil is among the big corporates backing the regional shift. “Our population is projected to get to 45 million by 2050, and we can’t concentrate all that growth in a small number of capital cities that are already crowded,” said group managing director, Alison Watkins.
“With the way Australia has handled the COVID situation, we have the opportunity to prepare ourselves for the next 20-30 years. We can either resume the trajectory that we were on, which included quite low levels of investment, crowded cities becoming more crowded and declining regional populations, or can use it as a step-change in the way we do things. We need to be ahead of the curve and make sure we have the infrastructure, connectivity, digital enablement, health and education to attract business investment to these areas.”
The RAI’s Liz Ritchie said COVID also played a part in swaying hearts and minds towards regional life, raising the desire to move to regional Australia for 22 per cent of survey respondents.
“People have had the opportunity to sit back and reflect on their quality of life, and many have realised that there’s more to life than the way they’re living in the city,” she said.