By Jackson Russell – This article first appeared in the Ballarat Courier
Almost 5000 people recently left Melbourne for regional Victoria, surging growth in regional centres across the state, according to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics figures.
The figures, released on Tuesday, revealed a net total of 7445 people left Melbourne in the September quarter, of which 4701 made the move to regional Victoria.
The influx of new residents skews young, with 5075 arrivals to regional Victoria aged between 25 and 44 years while a net total of 1062 of those aged 45-64 years made a tree change.
Soldiers Hill couple Linsie Davies and Chris Whitefield are two to make the move recently, having moved after spending the last 15 years living in Melbourne.
After welcoming their second child into the world just six weeks ago, Ms Davies said the extra space to raise their family was the main drawcard of the move from Melbourne’s inner north.
“Our family was expanding so we just wanted a bit more space for the kids to run around and there are a lot of opportunities for me. I work in mental health so lots of job opportunities across the public and private sectors,” she said.
“The other draw card was having proximity to Melbourne where Chris can still commute via the train so that was important to us. The long-term plan for us was to raise our kids regionally and enjoy that lifestyle that it has to offer.
“It really is a beautiful place to live. We love the lake, there’s a beautiful café and food culture here now which we really enjoy. There are lots of lovely parks to visit as well and just a slower pace for us.”
Both Ms Davies and Mr Whitefield grew up in the country, with Ms Davies calling Swan Hill home while Mr Whitefield is originally from Ballarat, where his parents continue to live.
“We both had it in our blood to move out of the city having lived there for about 15 years. I think it was time to go back to our roots,” Ms Davies said.
The phenomenon of Victorians leaving the regions in their youth only to come back to start a family is not uncommon according to City of Ballarat Mayor Daniel Moloney, who did the same thing himself.
“I spent the first 18 years of my life in Ballarat, went to Melbourne and came back. This is a pretty common trend for people with history in this city to go away for university and come back later on,” Cr Moloney said.
“There’s a new phenomenon now where people are coming here because it’s a better alternative for them. I know people who are sick of Melbourne and the traffic, their workplaces have seen they can work anywhere and they’ll shift to Ballarat and work most of the time here with occasional travel into Melbourne.”
While Ballarat has steadily grown at up to 2500 new residents per year, that could explode this year with 600 government workers and their families relocating upon the completion of GovHub.
Cr Moloney said while the growth was exciting for job opportunities, there were potential downsides and growing pains to come with it that could be resolved through appropriate planning.
“We’ll see more progress as high income earners come to Ballarat but the downside is traffic congestion and those growing pains such as having enough schools and health facilities for an extra 2500 people a year,” he said.
“We’re going to have some work to do as council to spread the benefits as much as possible because the downsides will be really obvious in traffic and parking congestion.
“This is a challenge that every growing city in the world encounters and we need to heed the lessons of cities like Geelong which has doubled is population in the last 50 years.”
As more Melburnians move to regional centres, the demand for Ballarat properties only grows greater.
Stuart Benjamin, director of developer Elmstone Property Group, said while Ballarat had its best weekend of sales in several years, there was a shortage of stock for new buyers.
” A number of properties sold for more than $100,000 over their asking price so things are red hot,” he said.
“We’re highlighting the lack of land planning that’s happened over the last few years, we have a land shortage and the reason we’re not getting as much growth as Geelong or Bendigo is we haven’t put in the hard work preparing growth areas.”