More millennials are leaving the city and settling in regional areas, with some choosing smaller, more remote destinations, continuing a post-pandemic urban exodus trend that shows no signs of going away as the cost of living rises continues to weigh.
The quarterly Regional Movers Index Report analysis relocation data among Commonwealth Bank customers to calculate the net internal migration local government areas (LGAs) of Australia.
Here’s a look at the patterns that emerged.
What is net internal migration?
Internal migration is Australians traveling from one Australian territory to another, not counting overseas migrants or population changes due to births or deaths.
By calculating how many new people move into an LGA minus those who leave it, we obtain the net amount of migration.
The Regional Movers Index report primarily compared data collected in the 12 months to September 2023 with data from the previous year, as well as trends before, during and after the pandemic.
He found that capital migration to the region accounted for 11 percent of all relocations — the same figure as last year — when 9.1 percent of moves involved people going in the other direction — this figure is down for the second quarter in a row.
12.6 percent of relocations were people moving between regions, with the rest being people moving from capital to capital.
The number of people on the move in the three months to September was the third highest since March 2018.
Which regions are people moving to?
Queensland’s Sunshine Coast tops the list of Australia’s favorite regional destinations, with 16.7% of movers choosing it in the 12 months to September 2023.
- 1.Sunshine Coast, Queensland: 16.7%
- 2.Greater Geelong, Vic: 8.3%
- 3.Gold Coast, Queensland: 8.3%
- 4.Fraser Coast, Queensland: 6.5%
- 5.Moorabool, Vic: 5.8%
Five modest LGAs were also labeled as “regional hotspots” in the report, due to an increase in their net migration rates compared to the previous year.
Waroona in Western Australia saw its net migration “nearly quadruple”, topping the list with 279 per cent, while Greater Geraldton, in the same state, saw its net migration increase by 205 per cent.
- 1.Waroona, Washington: 279.3%
- 2.Greater Geraldton, Washington: 205.3%
- 3.Snowy Valleys, New South Wales: 127%
- 4.Golden Plains, Vic: 103.7%
- 5.Douglas, Queensland: 100%
Regional Australia Institute chief economist Kim Houghton, who helped write the report, said the list of regional hotspots was more unexpected than the list of preferred destinations because the hotspots tended to be smaller places that had seen significant growth.
Among those moving from capitals to regions, regional New South Wales was the most popular destination, attracting 39 per cent of internal migrants (dethroning Queensland, which ranked second this year).
Lake Macquarie And Bouba in New South Wales were among the top choices of former city dwellers, while Maitland in New South Wales and Bundaberg And Toowoomba in Queensland has become one of the top five destinations for those moving from one region to another.
Where is everyone moving from?
When it comes to the top five destinations, the report notes that “those who migrate are more likely to come from closer cities.”
Brisbane fed the most people in regional Queensland LGAs, while Melbourne Melton And Wyndham were the biggest contributors to neighbors Moorabool And Greater Geelong.
The Gold Coast was the only LGA in the top five to gain popularity in the three months to September.
Mr Houghton said the area acted almost as a “transit place”, with “people coming… staying for a while and some of them heading towards an area”.
He said looking at the report in general, some Australians found living in capital cities unsatisfying and were choosing to settle in areas just outside their cities.
While this pattern appears to be true for Waroona and Golden Plains, other increasingly popular LGAs were a little different.
“Those arriving…further away, such as the Snowy Valleys and Douglas, have largely come from other states,” the report notes.
Mr Houghton said most of their arrivals came from Canberra, Sydney And Melbournewhich represented “a very long distance move from an urban environment to a fairly isolated and remote environment”.
He added that it was fascinating because these regional destinations did not fit the “standard playbook” in terms of what a place needs to grow, such as having large centers, airports or transport connectivity of high quality.
Sydney once again, most internal migrants leave from far away, while Perth And Brisbane won some people.
Who takes the step?
Young urban dwellers seeking cheap housing and well-paying jobs made up the largest category of migrants to regional LGAs, often traveling longer distances than other demographic groups.
“By age group, millennials were found to be the most likely to make this decision,” the report said.
“(The report) really paints a picture of young individuals or young families looking for somewhere affordable,” Mr. Houghton said.
But he said the situation was slightly different when it came to Snowy Valleys LGA, where people with more funds were more likely to move.
Why are they moving?
While the report doesn’t analyze why people travel, Houghton said the destinations themselves provide contextual clues.
“A lot of small places that are seeing growth, and the big places that are seeing less growth, it seems to have to do with house price And availability of the house,” he said.
He highlighted people moving from Adelaide to Ceduna, as the median house price there is one of the lowest in regional South Australia, and people moving from the Gold Coast to the region of Queensland.
“There is no causal link, but there are, I think, many associations between these places and property prices,” he said.
He added it was no coincidence that the movement from regions to capital cities over the past two quarters had slowed as property prices, particularly in Melbourne and Sydney, had risen much faster than the regional market.
What started as a COVID-induced shift to regions doesn’t appear to be going away either, with city-to-region movement currently sitting at 11.7 percent above the pre-COVID average.
Mr Houghton said what was at the time seen as a passing phase “now appears to be a long-term structural change”.