Australia is a highly urbanised nation
Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data reveals that the net migration from urban centres to regional Australia is currently at its highest since detailed records began more than two decades ago
Changing work arrangements have led to an upsurge in working from home during the Covid-19 pandemic. This outcome combined with the frustration of regular snap city lockdowns, has inspired large numbers of city dwellers to look for a tree change to regional towns and rural areas.
The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data tells us that regional Australia experienced a net inflow of 43,000 people moving from the capital cities during 2020. The net figure represents the total number of people moving to the rural regions less the number of people leaving it for the big cities.
The ABC's Emilia Terzon asserts that the city exodus during COVID-19 has soared not only because people are moving away from the cities, but also because more regional Australians are staying put in their country towns.
As yet, there is not a huge amount of data showing exactly where city people have moved to during the pandemic.
Property price increases indicate that tree changers are seeking places still relatively close to major capitals, such as the Central Coast near Sydney or the Surf Coast near Melbourne, rather than truly remote locations.
Rachel Westbury, in her article Unpacking Australia's tree-change trend, cites the Regional Movers Index Report that reveals regional migration is at its highest level since 2018, with net migration to the regions up by 66 per cent.
The report was developed by the Regional Australia Institute in partnership with the Commonwealth Bank to better understand the number of people moving from Australian capital cities to other local government areas.
The areas that saw the largest growth in inland migration was Noosa at 49 per cent, closely followed by Queensland's Southern Downs at 44 per cent.
Other destinations attracting people moving out of cities included the Gold Coast (up 11 per cent), the Sunshine Coast (six per cent), Greater Geelong (four per cent), Wollongong (three per cent) and Newcastle (two per cent).
Westbury notes that the tree-change trend has been a long time coming and is no surprise to demography experts.
ABS figures reveal Queensland was the biggest beneficiary, gaining 7,200 people from internal migration in the September 2020 quarter. REA Insights property data show that since April 2020, enquiries from Victoria to Queensland rose by more than 130 per cent by October 2020.
Southport Real Estate Agents are experiencing fierce competition amongst young family Sea Changers looking to rent a property on the Gold Coast
The 2020 report from the Centre for Population found that overseas migrants contributed to 26 per cent of population growth in regional Australia between 1996 and 2016.
Out of the 25 regions that recorded the highest net internal migration over 2020 - 2021, thirteen were regional, country or coastal areas. The highest migration was recorded in areas such as Moreton Bay in Queensland, La Trobe in Victoria's Gippsland and Richmond-Tweed in New South Wales.
adapted from CoreLogic, 2021
Post-pandemic, some employers may be less amenable to the current work-from-home agreements or the combination of workplace & work-from-home arrangements that have suited employees who have made the tree change or sea change move during the pandemic
Population experts also believe some city dwellers moving to regional areas during the pandemic will find that their tree change does not meet their expectations and therefore the current migration trend won't last long term.
However, Michael Mackenzie, host of the ABC Life Matters radio program, Flocking to Tree Change Destinations (21 Sept. 2021), also warns town planners and Councils against allowing “the weight of population growth to drown” Tree Change and Sea Change regions around Australia.
Mackenzie's warning is especially pertinent in places like the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Noosa and other South-East Queensland regions close to the capital city of Brisbane
Amy Chien-Yu-Wang. Sea or tree change: Tips for moving to a regional area. SBS, 24 Feb 2021.
CoreLogic, 2021. Tree Change, Sea Change: What You Need To Know To Generate Leads.
Harper, Hillary & Michael Mackenzie. Flocking to Tree Change Destinations... ABC Radio - Life Matters, Fri 10 September 2021.
Kapernick, Kerry & staff. Tree changers swapping city life for a regional and rural lifestyle. Herald-Sun, 7 Feb 2017
Macdonald, Marian. Is the tree change trend real? Farm Online National, 22 Jul 2021.
Terzon, Emilia. COVID-19 has made a tree change more alluring – but that may not last. ABC Radio - The Business, Fri 25 Jun 2021.