Bushfires were the chief concern amongst those looking for a regional home. Image: Canva.
  • Two thirds of Australians considering a regional move are concerned about disasters
  • Extreme heat and bushfires was the greatest concern, followed by floods, drought, and pandemic
  • Three quarters of Australians were open to moving to the regions under the right circumstances

An Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) report has found that two-thirds of Australians looking for a tree change are considering the threat of natural disasters.

Why is this important?

The research undertaken for AHURI by researchers from University of South Australia, RMIT, and UNSW Sydney is called Understanding What Attracts New Residents to Smaller Cities.

It is expected that between 2016 and 2066, the Australian population will increase by up to 24.6 million, it is currently over 25 million.

It was also noted that approximately 55 per cent of the growth is expected to be in Australia’s two largest cities: Sydney and Melbourne.

Understandably, there are major concerns around the pressures this large growth will have on urban centres, the alleviation of which could be through attracting people to smaller regional cities.

Natural disasters

The research found that 72 per cent of Australians moving to regional and rural cities believed extreme heat and bushfires were the greatest natural hazard.

Of the remaining three natural hazards perceived to be the greatest threats: 66% floods and flash floods; 62% drought and water shortage, and 54% pandemic impacts.

AHURI’s research also found that three quarters of Australians were open to moving to a mid-sized city under the right circumstances:

“Our research found that when it comes to having a preference to live in smaller cities, there are four groups of Australians: those who prefer large cities (16% of the population); those who have a preference for smaller cities (21%); those who don’t mind either way (54%); those who have a very strong preference for living in smaller cities (9%),” said lead author of the research, Associate Professor Akshay Vij of the University of South Australia.

“Government policies to attract people to smaller regional cities would be best targeted at those middle two groups, who make up 75 per cent of the population, as they appear more open to moving to a mid-sized city under the right circumstances,” added Associate Professor Akshay Vij.

AHURI said the 21% of Australians whom had a preference for smaller cities were made up of young individuals living in single or shared households and middle-aged individuals living in households with children.

They tend to be university-educated and employed full-time in high-wage managerial or professional jobs in white-collar sectors. They place the greatest importance on employment and education opportunities and are likely to move to mid-sized cities if they could offer comparable opportunities.

The 54% were likely to be older, and employed part-time in lower paying jobs or retired from the workforce. They place a high importance on quality of life, quality of local healthcare, and housing and other living costs.

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