A STRONGER sense of community and more affordable cost of living were appealing factors for living in regional Australia Joseph van Dyk was aware about long before the latest COVID trend.
Mr van Dyk and his wife moved to Ballarat from London, via Melbourne, about six years ago. The property consultant said a real "gentrification"in this city's centre, particularly in the foodie scene about Armstrong and Mair streets, had transformed Ballarat in this time.
A new Ipsos poll, commissioned by The Age and Nine News, found one-quarter of Melburnians were rethinking where they lived because of the coronavirus pandemic. One in 10 Melburnians were contemplating regional Victoria with realisations in working productively from home a key consideration.
This comes as Regional Australia Institute launched a new alliance on Wednesday to help drive populations in regional areas.
Mr van Dyk and his wife chose Ballarat because Melbourne had fast become unaffordable. His wife grew up just outside Ballarat and he had family go to boarding school in town so he said they were aware of the brilliant lifestyle and education opportunities here.
Now others were catching on.
Mr van Dyk, who is involved in the Nightingale House project in Ballarat, said there was a real push from people wanting to live in the city centre, particularly in a "20-minute city" with two hospitals, two universities, good schools and good houses available for under $500,000.
He said rent was also cheaper for young workers, like hospitality traders, and councils were generally more supportive of new business in regional areas.
"Contribution to community was another reason we wanted to move to Ballarat. Melbourne had become too large and was too difficult to get as involved," Mr van Dyk said. "...I'm a real believer in incidental interactions, constantly bumping into people. This creates small relationships but big things can build from that."
Contribution to community was another reason we wanted to move to Ballarat....I'm a real believer in incidental interactions, constantly bumping into people.Joseph van Dyk
Committee for Ballarat and City of Ballarat are joint-partners in Regional Australia Institute's new Regional Activators Alliance. RAI wants the activation campaign to be driven from communities via its 36-member organisations.
Committee for Ballarat chief executive officer Michael Poulton welcomed the promotion and said this was a great chance to raise awareness for what regional Australia and this region could offer.
Mr Poulton said there was plenty of anecdotal evidence that Melburnians were increasingly looking to regional Victoria after lengthy lockdowns and it was important to capitalise on this.
At the same time, Mr Poulton said Ballarat had to get the balance right and not lose sight of long-term growth plans - linkages, water supply and energy - to manage demand.
IN OTHER NEWS
"There is opportunity now to start opening up and look how we actively promote regional living and regional lifetsyle," Mr Poulton said.
"Living in Ballarat is a conscious decision for me. I worked in Melbourne and commuted from Ballarat because it offered a lifestyle that could not be matched. For me and I'm sure many others, regional living connects place, purpose and people. It's hard to measure in quantifiable terms but it's incredibly powerful and emotional. It's hard to imagine unless you've actually experienced it, but having done so, its very hard to leave."
Mr Poulton said small vibrant communities like Creswick, would also benefit in population growth for the region.
City of Ballarat chief executive officer Janet Dore said the pandemic helped boost a realisation that location was no longer a barrier for where to work and live.
"We know this shift has already started, with reports of people leaving Melbourne for Ballarat, and other regional centres," Ms Dore said.
"Our involvement in this alliance will assist us to spread the word nationally about why a regional city such as Ballarat is a great place to invest and grow a business, increasing the prosperity of Ballarat for all who live here."
City of Ballarat and Committee for Ballarat state Ballarat's key strengths as an attractive destination to live are:
- Close proximity to Melbourne
- The cost of living is lower
- The median house price in Ballarat is $550,000
- Ballarat is in the top 10 regional destinations that millennials are moving to
- Ranked high for public open space and social infrastructure
- Building approval figures in Ballarat are bucking an eight-year low nationally, with numbers continuing to increase over the last five years