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Regional appeal driving population growth

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By Colin MacGillivray

A REPORT on the population mobility of Australians has found an increasing flow of people moving away from capital cities is driving population growth in regional areas such as Mitchell and Macedon Ranges shires.

The Regional Australia Institute – a think tank dedicated to advocating for and developing policy to benefit regional areas – last month released ‘The Big Movers’, a report detailing population movement trends in Australia.

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The report found people were moving away from capital cities in increasing numbers, including people in the millennial age bracket of 20 to 35 years old.

The institute’s chief executive Liz Ritchie said the trend could drive significant population growth in regional areas, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“From 2011 to 2016, our two biggest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, lost more residents to regions than they gained – and this was well before COVID-19,” she said.

“Over the last few months, we’ve all had to change how we work, and this has allowed staff and employers to see that location is no longer a barrier for where we choose to work.”

The report found that from 2011 to 2016, Sydney saw a net loss of 64,756 people to regional Australia, Melbourne 21,609 and Adelaide about 1,000. Brisbane, Perth, Hobart and Darwin each had small net gains.

From 2006 to 2016 more than 135,000 more people moved from capital cities to regions than the other way around.

The report also found while 178,961 millennials moved to capital cities from regional Australia, more than 200,000 moved between regions.

“Sydney also saw a net outflow of millennials. Some 37,000 millennials moved from Sydney to regions, with 32,500 moving the other way,” Ms Ritchie said.

Housing affordability, lifestyle choices and rapid career advancement were listed as the top three reasons for millennials moving to regional areas.

The Macedon Ranges boasts boutique wine, beer and gin, farmers markets and quality food businesses, which help attract young people to the shire.

Mitchell Shire Mayor David Lowe said the region’s population was set to explode in the next 30 years as Melbourne’s urban fringe expanded into the south of the shire.

“Mitchell Shire is Victoria’s fastest growing municipality and we have the goal of creating and delivering a healthy, connected and sustainable community now and into the future,” he said.

“It does present its challenges. Our shire has a population of more than 52,000 people. This is expected to grow to 270,000 people by 2048.

“We’re unique in so many ways. In the south of the shire, we’re a growing urban, interface community, while to the north our rural lifestyle allows for many to make a tree change.

“This provides a rare opportunity for families and young people to enjoy both the benefits of the city as well as our wonderful natural environment.”

Cr Lowe said the state’s regional First Home Owner Grant of $20,000 helped entice young people and families to the shire.

He said continued government investment in the shire – including support for roads, infrastructure and mental health and domestic violence services – would be critical to supporting population growth.

Macedon Ranges Shire director of planning and environment Angela Hughes said the area’s natural beauty was a drawcard for people seeking an escape from metropolitan Melbourne.

“Moving to Macedon Ranges does not mean you have to settle for second best, in fact much of the great produce that is enjoyed in the Melbourne café culture originates from our region; boutique wine, beer and gin, local farmers and top notch foody businesses,” she said.

“With the parks and trails in Macedon Ranges there are many walks and cycle routes to explore and enjoy the significant cultural and natural landscapes.

“Millennial creatives are moving to the area and working with council’s arts unit sharing their diverse talents from performing live to teaching art.

“Overall, the Macedon Ranges is an attractive proposition for people looking to get out of metropolitan, higher density living and into a friendly, strong and welcoming community.”

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