Nearly one in three young Sydneysiders would consider moving to regional NSW over the next three years, an exclusive research study by SEC Newgate Research for the 2020 Daily Telegraph Bush Summit has found.
Welcome to a special edition of SEC Newgate’s note to clients that focuses on the findings of this report, unveiled today at the summit in Cooma, NSW. The online survey of nearly 1,200 NSW people, taken Friday 21 – Monday 24 August, also shows regional residents resilient in the face of drought, bushfire and coronavirus – and keen to see major investment in transport connections and telecommunications infrastructure to deliver long-term prosperity in the regions.
We have also included highlights from our regular national tracking study into Australians’ attitudes to the coronavirus pandemic, which this week shows anxiety and pessimism continuing to decline with first tentative signs of support for state borders to reopen soon. We also feature a summary of how Victorians are feeling.
City slickers ready to move
A surprisingly high 23% of all Sydneysiders would consider moving to a regional area in the next three years but this rises to some 30% of 18-34-year-olds and 41% of those with children under 12.
These city dwellers are typically seeking a lower cost of living and more peaceful environment but the main barrier to their rural dreams is a perceived lack of employment opportunities (23%) or lack of access to health care (16%). Older people were more likely to feel it was too late for a major life change.
There is also strong appetite for Government to give those considering a move a nudge along: some 66% of regional and 74% of city residents say they would support Government and corporate programs that encourage people moving to regional NSW and telecommuting or working in local offices.
High speed rail, road links to Sydney and digital connectivity most wanted in regions
Regional residents listed building high-speed rail (most preferred), investing in adequate phone and internet coverage (2nd most preferred) and investing in new transport infrastructure to better connect NSW regions with the city (the 3rd most preferred initiative) as the most important initiatives for government to invest in.
There was also interest in government support for telecommuting, tourism promotion and renewable energy zones.
Strong recovery from drought and bushfires
Around two thirds believe their local community has “mostly” or “completely recovered” from the drought (60%) and the bushfires (64%). This is encouraging, given that around half believe their local community was “severely” or “quite” impacted by the drought (52%) or the bushfires (48%).
52% also rate the Government’s handling of the bushfires as “good” or better, but this drops to 42% on handling of the drought.
Warm welcome in the bush for city visitors
Some 58% in the regions believe that the growing numbers of post-COVID Sydney tourists has had a positive impact on their local community (rising to 63% in coastal regions) with only 21% believing it is having a negative impact.
Leading regional indicators
Economy, jobs and inadequate infrastructure are the dominant concerns for most people living in regional NSW (outside of Sydney, Wollongong and Newcastle). They were “extremely” or “quite concerned” with the economy (73%), the cost of electricity (69%), unemployment (65%), the cost of living (64%), the quality of aged care (61%) and road infrastructure (59%).
Concern with coronavirus (63%) was significantly lower than in metropolitan NSW (74%). Only 49% of regional residents believe their local community has been “quite” or “severely” impacted by coronavirus, compared with 64% of city residents.
Some 72% in regional NSW believe the quality of life in their area is “good” to “excellent” although it was lower in inland areas (67%) compared to coastal regions (76%). Some 72% who felt their community is heading in the right direction cited the strong sense of community and positive infrastructure developments as the main reasons, while those who felt negative (28%) mostly blamed a lack of Government support, perceived inappropriate local Government spending, the economic downturn and drug issues.
Like in metro areas the pandemic is having mixed effects outside cities, with about a third (32%) of those in regional areas reporting their workplace is actually busier than before coronavirus with 31% being quieter than before the pandemic.
Regional people are in fact more confident than those in metro areas that their employer/business will still be operating in 12 months’ time (59% “very confident” compared to 46% of metro participants).
Key points from this week’s coronavirus tracking survey
In the 25th week of our virus tracking survey (1,500 people nationally, taken Monday 24 – Wednesday 26 August), concern about the economy has surpassed the virus for the first time in five weeks:
Key concerns: Coronavirus is still the most worrying issue facing Australia (mentioned by 58% unprompted) down from 65% two weeks ago. When prompted, concern about the economy (83% “extremely” or “quite concerned”) was higher than for coronavirus (80%).
Predictions: Other indicators show pessimism about the virus spread and the economy is easing – 41% now say the spread will get worse in a month (down from 73% three weeks ago) and 26% say it will get worse in three months (down from 45% three weeks ago). Similarly, 62% say the economy will get worse in a month (78% three weeks ago) and 52% say it will get worse in three months (66% three weeks ago).
Restrictions: Most people feel that restrictions are being lifted at the right pace (55%), although three in 10 still feel that they are being lifted too quickly (29%). When it comes to their own behaviour, 42% say they are more careful than what is required, down from 47% last week which may indicate people starting to relax.
Borders: Nearly three in 10 say it would appropriate to open up our state borders within a month (28% up from 21% last week) and a quarter say it would be appropriate to open up our border with New Zealand in a month (36% up from 19% last week). Australians are unmoved about opening international borders, but a quarter would support international students travel to Australia within a month (24%).
The attached snapshot shows the mood of Victorians as opposed to the rest of Australia, painting a harsh picture of the impact on economic activity, mental health and daily life as the lockdown grinds towards September. It is based off a sample size of n=605 in Victoria
Segments in the spotlight: Victoria vs. rest of Australia