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Bush tourism boom has some towns bursting at the seams

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It may start to feel a bit cramped in regional Queensland after data showed it was enjoying a golden era with a tourism boom adding to the COVID-inspired population boom.

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And regional councils said they were “feeling the squeeze” from the highest migration on record to push for a greater share of funding.

Tourism Research Australia data showed that in May the regional Queensland tourism spend was up 31 per cent.

According to Conus Consultancy, tourism expenditure in regional Queensland was now 6.6 per cent higher than for the same period to May 2020.

In comparison in Greater Brisbane and the Gold Coast expenditure was down 21.4 per cent.

Meanwhile, population growth is booming. Over the year to March, net migration to regional Queensland increased 16,337, almost double the figure of the previous year and above the increase seen in Greater Brisbane of 14,448.

Australian Bureau of Statistics data showed this shift to the bush was happening nationally. In the March 2021 quarter there was a net loss of 11,800 people from Australia’s greater capital cities, the largest net loss on record. 

Chair of Regional Capitals Australia Cr Kevin Mack said the population shift put an official number to regional capitals’ long term mandate.

“Never before has it been so critical that we get the right infrastructure in place,’’ Mack said. 

“Regional capitals are facing unprecedented demand for services, in the face of this once-in-a-generation population shift.”

The councils want more investment, particularly for business fibre zones and mobile blackspots in regional capitals. They also want funding to support the development of regional city rail projects; and funding for the Regional Airports Fund and Regional Growth Fund.

“COVID-19 has changed how we live and work.  In regional Australia, our digital technology and housing services in particular, are not keeping up.”    

 “For too long there has been a capital city-centric approach. 

“It is crucial that we acknowledge the growth in regional Australia, and get the policy settings right, accordingly.”

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