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Sea change: Regions become a magnet for the COVID-weary

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The Gold Coast is the most popular destination among people moving from capitals to regions, claiming 11 per cent of all capital city dwellers who moved to regional areas during the last financial year.

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The extraordinary shift from the capitals since the pandemic began has seen regional Queensland account for 28 per cent of the people making the move, a significant leap from the previous level of 2 per cent.

And while the Gold Coast has been the strongest magnet, a Commonwealth Bank analysis showed the Sunshine Coast had the second-highest level at 5 per cent.

The drift away from the capitals does also appear to be slowing down, but that may be because of the closed borders.

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures released this week showed Queensland’s population grew by 43,900 in the year to the end of March, while Victoria lost 42,900.  In overall terms, more than 105,000 people moved to Queensland from other states in the period and 75,000 left during the year to March.

The CBA said COVID-era migration patterns were underscored by an increasing preference for regional areas. Capital-city dwellers were moving to the regions in greater numbers, while regional people were electing to stay in place in greater numbers.

“This has seen the former group increase its share of total quarterly movement – from around 5 per cent in the years just prior to COVID to slightly more than 6 per cent of total quarterly movement in more recent quarters.

“The latter group of movers – regional people moving to capital cities – has shrunk in its share of total movement. From generally staying above 4 per cent in the years prior to COVID, to reaching as little as 3.6 per cent back in the September 2020 quarter.

“This drove the net migration index to its peak during that quarter.

“The net migration index has since scaled back as more regional people have started to move to capital cities – they still however account for a relatively small share. The net migration index in the June 2021 quarter is still 10 per cent higher than a year earlier.

The largest numbers of capital-city dwellers moving to regional Australia continue to head for the high population coastal centres proximate to capital cities.

In the 2020/21 financial year, Melbourne’s share of net capital city outflows increased to 47 per cent, almost on par with Sydney’s 49 per cent.

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