Ahead of World Population Day (Saturday 11 July), Charles Sturt University lecturer in the School of Management and Marketing and Institute for Land, Water and Society member Dr Simon Wright said regional NSW needs economic security and sustainable resources to cope with its the ever-increasing population growth.
The lure of a quieter, cheaper lifestyle is proving tempting for ‘millennials’ living in the city, and rural towns are experiencing high rates of growth as they head into regional NSW for a change.
‘The Big Movers: Understanding Population Mobility in Regional Australia’ report was recently released and showed that between the two national Census in 2011 and 2016, regional Australia had a net inflow of 65,204 people.
Ahead of World Population Day on Saturday 11 July, this report reveals there were more people aged 25 to 35 years old moving to regional Australia than moving away from it, igniting the conversation about what resources regional NSW needs to accommodate this growth.
The COVID-19 pandemic is anticipated to exacerbate the regional influx, with previously city-bound professionals likely to take advantage of their new-found working-from-home capabilities by relocating to regional areas which boast more affordable real estate and less congestion.
Dr Simon Wright, a Charles Sturt expert in environmental sustainability and how it relates to businesses, said a distribution of population takes pressure off resources in the city.
But the concern then shifts to ensuring the regional areas that are experiencing sudden population growth have the sustainable resources to cope with the influx.
“In theory, it’s a great idea but it tends to happen in an unplanned and erratic fashion,” he said.
“There are no jobs on a dead planet. Without the environment, there is no economy. COVID-19 has given us a stark reminder of that. We are totally reliant on our natural environment for our food and the water we drink.”
Dr Wright said building roads, schools and hospitals is important, but what’s a more immediate concern is ensuring these towns’ natural resources are plentiful.
He cites sufficient water supply and quality, access to locally-generated clean energy, good internet connectivity, and improved transport as essential to accommodating and sustaining population growth.
“All of these things combined are crucial to deliver economic security to regional centres,” Dr Wright said.
Dr Wright said towns with a Charles Sturt University campus (Albury-Wodonga, Bathurst, Dubbo, Orange, Port Macquarie, and Wagga Wagga) are ideal locations for millennials looking for a tree change, after the above report stated that 30 per cent of millennials that left a capital city moved to a town in regional NSW.
“They are all wonderful centres and have lots going for them,” he said.
“Charles Sturt University, along with all local stakeholders, is involved in the stewardship of our regional towns.
“We obviously have expertise in these areas, and we can help guide the conversation and lobby governments.”