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‘We haven’t looked back’: Qld’s biggest population boom in 16 years. By Felicity Caldwell and Jocely

Sunny Queensland experienced a boom in new residents not seen in almost two decades as families fled COVID lockdowns in southern states in 2020 in search of a better lifestyle.

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures reveal Victoria had its first net interstate population loss since 2008 last year, with 12,700 people moving out, while more than 18,800 people left New South Wales for other parts of the country.

Queensland has enjoyed a surging population as people flee other states.

At the same time, Queensland was a winner, having its highest net gain since 2004, with 30,000 moving to the Sunshine State from interstate.

South Australia had its first net interstate migration gain (100 people) in almost 30 years, while Western Australia (1400 people) recorded its first annual net gain since 2013.

Out of the capital cities, Greater Sydney had the largest net loss (down 31,600 people) from internal migration in 2020, while Melbourne lost 26,100 people – the largest annual net loss for Victoria’s capital on record. Brisbane (13,000 people), Perth (3500) and Canberra (300) were the only capital cities to record net gains over the year. Demographer Mark McCrindle said the exodus from Victoria was “no surprise” as its residents faced a tough year with lengthy lockdowns.

On the other hand, states like Queensland that avoided mass COVID outbreaks were seen as more attractive. “It has been the COVID factor but it’s also been a housing affordability factor,” he said.

“We’ve seen house prices going up and Melbourne and Sydney were already in the unaffordability category and they didn’t have a liveability to match. Demographer Mark McCrindle says people are attracted to the lifestyle in Queensland.

“People can take their Sydney and Melbourne jobs and do them from anywhere so that’s where Queensland has had the net gain.

“COVID and working from home has decoupled work from location.”

Mr McCrindle said Queensland had long been an aspirational destination for retirees looking for a sea change but more recently it had also become popular with families and young people.

“However, a state can become a victim of its own success ... with this internal migration comes an increase in demand for property, sometimes even above supply, so we do see that upward pressure on (housing) prices,” he said. Mal Lewis and Christine Herzog-Lewis have had their sights on moving to Brisbane from Victoria’s beachside suburb of Sandringham since 2012, but delayed their decision due to their elderly parents.

“Sadly, they recently passed away so we began thinking of relocating again,” Mr Lewis, a corporate real estate director, said.

Ms Herzog-Lewis said they planned to relocate in a few years but fast-tracked that timeline due to the pandemic.

“After living through lockdowns in Victoria and working as a teacher from home, we thought instead of doing it in two or three years, why not now? What are we waiting for?” she said.

The couple, who have since retired, bought a home in Indooroopilly in October after searching for six months. “We sold up our family home and we haven’t looked back,” Mr Lewis said. “The climate is lovely, you can wear shorts three-quarters of the year, it’s a very friendly city and it’s nice to see so many people out exercising and experiencing the outdoors. “I have lived my entire life in Victoria but I can say I don’t miss the weather. “The kids’ classes and lessons are a five-minute drive, which we could never do when they were in Melbourne.” Many people also hunted for a sea or tree change last year, with a net 43,000 Australians moving to regional areas from capital cities. That was the biggest flow to the regions since records began in 2001.

ABS director of demography Phil Browning said in recent decades more people were moving from capital cities to the regions, than from the regions to the capitals, resulting in a net gain for the bush.

“In 2020, regional Queensland had the biggest net inflow (17,000 people) of all the states,” he said.

“The regional areas of Victoria (13,400) and NSW (12,700) had the next largest net gains.”


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