Gold Coast
The Gold Coast proved popular during the first year of the pandemic. Image – Canva
  • Over 2020-21, there was a 7% increase in regional migration away from capital cities
  • Capital cities in NSW and Victoria experienced the greatest net outflow of people
  • Coastal areas within a few hours of major cities attracted most migrants

A new report from Commonwealth Bank (CBA) has confirmed what many commentators have been writing about for some time: a noticeable shift towards regional living, away from capital cities, has taken place during the pandemic.

Between March 2020 and March 2021 – the first full year of the pandemic – there was a 7% increase in regional migration away from the Australian capitals.

Even more notable, there was a 66% increase in regional migration – in total – over the year.

In order to calculate movements, the Index looks back over 5 years of residential data, where people have lived in one place for at least six months.

During the past year, a noticeable uptick has occurred in migration (see chart below).

Migration Index
Source: Regional Movers Index Report, CBA

Commutable Sea-changers

The most attractive regional centres were coastal areas a few hours from the capital cities, suggesting a ‘commutable seachange’ trend was going on.

Share of capital cities to regional migration, by region

  1. Gold Coast, Qld, 11%
  2. Sunshine Coast, Qld, 6%
  3. Greater Geelong, Vic, 4%
  4. Wollongong, NSW, 3%
  5. Newcastle, NSW, 2%

Migration from capital cities to local government areas, annual growth

  1. Noosa, Qld + 49%
  2. Southern Downs, Qld +44%
  3. Port Macquarie-Hastings, NSW +38%
  4. Launceston, Tas +34%
  5. Fraser Coast, Qld +26%

Capital cities in NSW and Victoria experienced the greatest net outflow of people into regional areas over the past year, with regional NSW, Queensland and Victoria being the beneficiaries.

Over in Tasmania, migration into Launceston rose 88%.

Noosa – not a bad place for a sea change. Image – Canva

“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,” said Grant Cairns, CBA’s Executive General Manager for Regional and Agribusiness Banking.

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

Not only does the data provide information as to people’s movements during the pandemic, it can help inform decision-makers around the implications for infrastructural and housing needs.

“This new Regional Movers Index shows it’s not just people in our major cities who are realising the opportunities and value provided by regional living. People already living in our regions are increasingly choosing to stay, rather than head for the bright city lights,”

Liz Ritchie, CEO of the Regional Australia Institute

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