Thirteen regional local government areas around the country recorded a jump in net internal migration levels of more than 100 percent through 2022 – with regional Queensland and Victoria taking the largest share of city movers, according to the December quarter Regional Movers Index.

This included the top five highest growth regional areas of Port Pirie (South Australia), Gladstone (Queensland), Murray Bridge (South Australia), Glen Innes (New South Wales), York (Western Australia) which all recorded a jump of over 200% in 2022.  

Net internal migration is a key driver of change in a region’s total population. It calculates the number of people from outside of the region (but still within Australia) moving in, less the number of local people leaving that region for another (within Australia). 

The Regional Movers Index is a partnership between Commonwealth Bank and the Regional Australia Institute (RAI) which analyses the quarterly and annual trends in people moving to and from Australia’s regional areas.

The December quarter data shows that national net internal migration to the regions is still up 45 per cent on pre-pandemic levels.

Commonwealth Bank Executive General Manager for Regional and Agribusiness Banking Paul Fowler said there was a slight drop of just 0.8 per cent in the number of people moving from cities to regional towns in the December quarter, well below the typical rate of around 8 per cent normally experienced over the holiday season period.

“This confirms that regional hubs are continuing to attract thousands of metro movers,” Mr Fowler said.

“Many are attracted by the opportunities that our thriving regional economies present. While it’s been a difficult year for many businesses who have faced significant challenges, including labour shortages and inflationary pressures, industries such as healthcare, manufacturing and agriculture are growing strongly and regional businesses are investing more to sustain increasing demand for their products and services.

“Key centres, such as Geelong in Victoria, Newcastle and Wollongong in NSW, and Bundaberg and Townsville in Queensland offer a wonderful mixture of attractive lifestyle benefits and significant business opportunities.”

Regional Australia Institute (RAI) CEO Liz Ritchie says the impact of capital city movers to the regions is now having a flow on effect to other regional places, many of which have historically seen limited population growth.

“The areas experiencing significant net migration increases would certainly be feeling the impact on house prices and rents, local services and infrastructure,” Ms Ritchie said.

“For that reason, policy makers, industry and regional leaders need to heed these results, to ensure adequate planning and resourcing is put in place to accommodate demand both now and in coming decades.

“In the early days of COVID, the high growth places were generally high amenity locations such as the Surf Coast, Byron Bay and Noosa. But the latest dataset shows us that regional people are leaving these areas for other inland centres or coastal towns – with a growing number opting to go even further away from Sydney and Melbourne.

“The regional housing squeeze is just one example of what can happen when we haven’t prepared for growth. The low growth ‘business as usual’ trends before 2020 has led to underinvestment in some regional areas."

The top 5 most popular destinations for both metropolitan and regional movers in terms of share of total net internal migration were:

  • Sunshine Coast (+12.5%)
  • Gold Coast (+11.3%)
  • Greater Geelong (+5.2%)
  • Fraser Coast (+4.4%)
  • Bundaberg (+3.3%)

The latest dataset also revealed that regional people are leaving these areas for other inland centres or coastal towns – with a growing number opting to move even further away from Sydney and Melbourne.

For those already living in regional Australia and making a regional move in 2022, Queensland held the most appeal. Out of the Top 10 LGAs attracting the greatest level of net regional migration inflows, eight were in Queensland.

The top 10 most popular destinations for regional-to-regional movers were:

  • Bundaberg (+5.8%)
  • Fraser Coast (+5.8%)
  • Toowoomba (+5.6%)
  • Sunshine Coast (+4.5%)
  • Maitland (+4.3%)
  • Townsville (+4.2%
  • Gympie (+3.4%)
  • Cairns (+2.8%)
  • Gladstone (+2.8%)
  • Ballarat (+2.6%)

Regional Australia is going through a period of elevated mobility – regional people are on the move and this is reflected in increases in the net region to region migration flows across the country. 

Regional Movers Index - December 2022 quarter



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