Its analysis of Commonwealth Bank data showed that Sydney and Melbourne were still losing residents while places like Townsville had seen a surge of arrivals.
Townsville recorded a more than six-fold annual increase in internal net migration, mostly from other regional areas, while five of the top 10 most popular areas were in Queensland.
There had also been a return of people moving to cities following the Covid years when regional people stayed put, but the overall trend was still largely one of people leaving the big cities for large regional areas with coastal regions most popular.
The RAI report said the share of internal migration that was heading to regional Australia was edging down from its Covid highs and now net migration to the regions was actually at its lowest since 2019. The level of net migration from cities to the regions was 58 per cent below this time last year, but was still significantly higher than pre-Covid years.
Capital city movement to regional areas increased 7.9 per cent, its third highest level in five years.
Regional Victoria and Queensland were the key destinations for capital city movers while the Gold Coast is now seeing an outflow of people to other regional areas of Queensland.
The people moving to the Sunshine and Gold coasts were largely from the capitals, mainly Brisbane. While these two centres remain among the most popular destinations, RAI said that compared to last year they were down significantly. The Gold Coast posted a 64 per cent decline and the Sunshine Coast about 10 per cent.
“Townsville is another regional powerhouse, where defence along with thriving manufacturing, construction and agricultural sectors is drawing more people from cities and other regional areas,” RAI’s Paul Fowler said.
The central Queensland local government area of Livingstone saw the strongest growth in people moving from capitals to regions. Toowoomba was also proving popular and the Southern Downs was one area that was attracting city people.
RAI said its research showed that one in five city dwellers wanted to move to regional Australia. The most common reason was the cost of living.
Top 10 destinations by share of movement
Sunshine Coast (14.9 per cent)
Greater Geelong (8 per cent)
Gold Coast (7.8 per cent)
Fraser Coast (5.9 per cent)
Bundaberg (4.2 per cent)
Moorabool (4.1 per cent)
Lake Macquarie (3.3 per cent)
Toowoomba (3.3 per cent)
Maitland (3.3 per cent)
Ballarat (3.3 per cent)