New push for regional migration

Businesswoman Dianna Somerville's lifestyle has improved since she moved to the Riverina. Picture: supplied

Businesswoman Dianna Somerville's lifestyle has improved since she moved to the Riverina. Picture: supplied

A lower cost of living, job opportunities and fewer concerns about COVID-19 have led more people to escape the cities for a country lifestyle - and a new push is on to lure even more Australians to the regions.

Since March city-leavers have driven down rental vacancies in regional areas, and in the case of the NSW Central Coast to below one per cent, far below vacancy rates in parts of Sydney and Melbourne.

A new alliance of regional councils and industry bodies, the Regional Activators Alliance, aims to achieve similar outcomes in other parts of the country.

In his announcement of a new national awareness campaign, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack urged Australians to keep the regions in mind, saying that "now is the time to make the move".

"I have always said regional Australia is big enough in which to get a good cup of coffee, but small enough to care," Mr McCormack said.

"There are jobs, there is a better lifestyle and there is the opportunity to build a fresh start - regional Australia is the best place to live, work and raise a family."

The government-funded campaign is a joint effort with Regional Australia Institute - which has recently launched the Regional Activators Alliance aimed at driving population to the regions.

The alliance is made up of 36 representative organisations from across the country, including local councils, economic development groups and industry representatives.

Why would you sit in the city and in traffic when you can have this lifestyle?

Dianna Somerville

Blue River Group head of community Dianna Somerville said that her organisation wanted to be part of efforts to bring people to the regions "to advocate for the job opportunities and quality of life".

"I moved back to the regions after a living in Sydney and Canberra and now do a lot of my work remotely from my own farm in Wagga Wagga," Ms Somerville said.

"I get to sit at my desk and look out over the amazing crops that we have, so why would you sit in the city and in traffic when you can have this lifestyle and opportunity?"

As metro areas continued to suffer job losses, Ms Somerville said that there was a major incentive to get out of the rat race and into areas where jobs were plentiful.

"There are so many jobs here and it's just a matter of filling them and welcoming new people into our communities," Ms Somerville said.

The Committee for Greater Shepparton has also signed up to be an RAA member. Chief executive Sam Birrell said driving investment into the regions was crucial to maintaining Australian quality of life.

"Do we want mega cities like New York or places like Germany which have medium-sized, interconnected cities? I think the population balance of the nation is important so we don't just rely on two mega cities," Mr Birrell said.

Central NSW Joint Organisation chief executive Jenny Bennett said that one of the alliance's main goals was to show people how much their quality of life could be improved.

"It's five minutes to travel to work, you can park, there's no queues, real estate is cheaper, you're closer to nature, and people's lives are a lot more manageable," Ms Bennett said

The campaign has also enlisted the help of communications agency Redhanded, to better understand how metropolitan Australians feel about moving regional.

But with working from home a new norm, Regional Australia Institute chief executive Liz Ritchie was confident more Australians could start a new life.

"We know the COVID experience has changed the notion of how we work and this presents an incredible opportunity for us," Ms Ritchie said

"Interest in regional Australia is certainly significant at the moment and with the help of RAA, we will create a strong brand campaign to elevate the regions even further."

The National Awareness Campaign will be launched in early 2021.

This story New push for regional migration first appeared on The Canberra Times.