New data from Commonwealth Bank and the Regional Australia Institute (RAI) has revealed a continued surge in the number of Australians moving from capital cities to regional centres.

According to the June quarter Regional Movers Index released today, there was an 11 per cent rise in the number of people moving from capital cities to regional areas compared with the June 2020 quarter.

Interestingly, the local government areas (LGAs) recording the largest growth in metro-movers over the 12 months to June 2021, were all located within a three-hour drive from Melbourne – a capital city that has endured the nation’s longest COVID-19 related lockdowns.

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The Victorian-based areas enjoying the biggest spike in population growth included: Moorabool (68 per cent increase), Mansfield (62 per cent increase) and Corangamite (52 per cent increase).

The Murray River area, located in NSW, was next in line (48 per cent increase), followed by Alpine in Victoria (47 per cent increase). Victoria’s Greater Geelong area – located one hour outside of Melbourne’s CBD – also saw an influx in capital city movers, with an increase of 26 per cent during the full year to June 2021.

Commonwealth Bank’s Executive General Manager for Regional and Agribusiness Banking, and Regional Australia Institute 2031 Council member, Grant Cairns said: “With house prices rising across the capital cities and flexible work options now more commonplace, the decision to make a lifestyle shift and move to a regional area has become a realistic option.

“The experience of lockdowns is front of mind for Victorians, so the desire to seek a tree change is rapidly growing. It is positive to see the development of infrastructure - particularly in regional areas – is growing to meet the increased demand.”

According to the Regional Movers Index, approvals for new housing in Geelong were 48 per cent higher in 2020/21 in comparison to the previous year. This uptick in residential developments has come at the same time as a surge in the number of building projects and industrial developments currently underway, including new offices, hotels and education facilities.

RAI’s Chief Economist Dr Kim Houghton said: “The Index identifies regional areas which are emerging as desirable destinations for capital city residents, enabling local leaders and business owners to prepare for a burst of population growth. It also shows us places that are coming off the boil in the June quarter, such as Noosa (QLD) and Mildura (VIC).”

“We can also see that the number of regional residents choosing to stay put has increased, which is likely to be contributing to the housing squeeze in some areas,” Dr Houghton said.

Key migration patterns by state in 2020/21:

  • Melbourne saw its share of net capital city outflows increase to 47 per cent, from 39 per cent a year earlier;
  • Sydney still had the highest share of net capital city outflows at 49 per cent and regional NSW picked up the largest share of net migration into regional Australia (34 per cent);
  • Regional Queensland’s share of net migrants from capital cities grew to 28 per cent, while the shares of both regional NSW and regional Victoria shrank;
  • Tasmania and South Australia each saw an increase in regional settlement with a four per cent and six per cent share, respectively; and
  • Perth was the only capital to see more people moving into the city than leaving, while regional WA’s share of net regional migration rose to three per cent from one per cent a year earlier.

Notes for Editors:

Data based on CBA customer address changes over the past 5 years, and addresses resided in for at least 6 months. Greater Capital City/Regional Area based on ABS 1270.0.55.001 GCCSA. At least 100 persons must have migrated to LGA to be counted.