Whole lotta love: How regional towns may suffer the downsides of being popular

The surge of people moving to regional areas of Queensland runs the risk of gentrifying areas creating the same problems that occur when big mines were developed, according to urban planner Tony Matthews.

Sep 20, 2021, updated Sep 20, 2021

Matthews, a senior lecturer in Urban and Environmental Planning at Griffith University, said in a podcast with Infrastructure Queensland’s Priscilla Radice that areas experiencing an increase in internal migration needed significant infrastructure to cope with not just the number of people moving but also the type.

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

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.

Matthews said knowledge workers were a big part of the move.

“If you have all these knowledge workers arriving into regional towns it will do the same thing the mines did. You will have a population arrive on a much higher salary and that will drive up the price of everything and it will displace local people,” he said.

“All of those people who are not on six figures a year and could previously afford their house or their rent will be displaced over time and we need to be very mindful of that.”

“Australia must be mindful of regional gentrification,” Matthews said.

He said towns that were drawing in these migrants needed infrastructure.

“They have to have digital connection, they have to have stable broadband, they have to have stable internet day and night and it has to be stable at a dispersed level,” he said.

“People can’t move to the regions if there’s no broadband because that’s mostly what they are going there for. They are not going there to work as farmhands,” Matthews said.

He said as places like the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast became too expensive these internal migrants would move to the next tier of towns.

Radice added that there were now towns that had jobs available. but could not get the right people there to fill them because the people who were moving were knowledge workers who were taking their jobs with them.”

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