The Regional Australia Institute (RAI) has called for a new national awareness campaign to promote the opportunities of living in regional Australia and help drive a population shift in coming decades.
The recommendation is part of its new report launched on 7 August in Melbourne, Regional Population Growth: Are We Ready? – exploring the economic consequences of alternative population scenarios that could alleviate Australia’s megacity future and supercharge regions.
The report was launched by Minister for Regional Development, The Hon. Jaclyn Symes, as part of the RAI’s national roadshow, Regions Rising.
RAI co-CEO, Dr Kim Houghton says this new body of work raises serious questions about the type of future Australia has if predicted population growth continues as projected in the outer suburbs of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth.
“The new research has shown that many workers living in our outer city suburbs could be financially better off if they moved to regional Australia,” Dr Houghton said.
“Many home owners in our state capitals are paying double the mortgage of their regional city counterparts but have a similar average wage.
“Australia’s population is set to grow by up to 19 million by 2056, with the Sydney and Melbourne to hit megacity status in the next few decades. Brisbane and Perth will grow to the size of Sydney and Melbourne today,” Dr Houghton said.
“But if we continue with our current geographic patterns of settlement, most of that population will end up in the outer suburbs,” Dr Houghton said.
In Sydney, Melbourne and Perth, the outer suburban population is forecast to more than double. In Brisbane, the outer suburbs population level will nearly triple.
RAI co-CEO, Liz Ritchie, says rapid urban population growth creates challenges already clear to residents in our outer suburbs, with high house prices paid by average wages and rising commute distances already emerging as key points in our big Australia debate.
“The average outer suburban Sydney worker earns $80,088, whereas their regional city counterpart has a wage of slightly less at $71,281. Across the country, the difference between the two groups are small and generally less than 10 per cent,” Liz Ritchie said.
“However, the stark contrast emerges when house prices are compared. In Melbourne, the average home in the suburbs costs $776,276, while in Victoria’s regional centres, the figure is less than half, at $344,365,” Ms Ritchie said.
Detailed in the new report, scenario modelling found that under the business as usual base case, commute distances in outer Sydney and Melbourne will increase by around 60 per cent and close to 25 per cent in outer Brisbane and Perth.
“Under the alternative distributed population scenario, where population growth is shared more evenly between outer suburbs and regional centres, commute distances for Sydney would rise by just 15 per cent, and Melbourne 40 per cent,” Liz Ritchie said.
The RAI has also unveiled its latest tool, MOVE, which allows potential home owners to find out which areas in Australia give them the best chance of paying off their mortgage faster.
By combining the average wage of a particular wage Local Government Area (LGA) with the average house price, people can quickly find out where they could pay off their mortgage the fastest.
“This new research really poses a significant question to families in the future – will you be financially better off setting up a life in regional Australia? We know the answer could be yes,” Liz Ritchie concluded.
A copy of the new research paper Regional Population Growth – Are we ready? can be found here. The new tool, MOVE, is available here.