Residents, economic-development agencies and governments continue calling for more metropolitan residents to migrate to the Riverina to reduce the increasing pressure on major cities’ infrastructures.
The further calls come after the nation’s population hit 25 million on Tuesday night.
Of those calling for city dwellers to move to the Riverina are Paul and Leslie Weston.
The couple moved to Wagga from New York in 2008 after initially considering one of the major cities.
“We had been to Australian before and had favourable impressions,” Mr Weston said.
The couple, who are both academics, made the decision to move to the region after opportunities at CSU Wagga presented themselves.
Mr Weston, a lecturer and senior research fellow in entomology, said “we don’t regret it one bit”.
“We’ve got no intention of moving back kto the US, we consider this region our home,” he said.
Mr Weston said there were more funding opportunities for his academic research in the Riverina compared with the “cut-throat” environment in major cities.
“I’d encourage people to have a look around – from the coast to the inland areas,” Mr Weston said.
With an estimated population of 170,000, the Riverina is equivalent to around 2.2 per cent of the residents living in NSW, while Sydney has 65 per cent.
In 2011–16, more than 4000 people made the Riverina home – an annual average increase of 0.5 per cent.
According to Rachel Whiting, CEO of Regional Development Australia Riverina, those numbers show that the region was “fit for the future” and that more people than ever were moving to the Riverina to “cash in on its opportunities”.
“We have jobs, space, infrastructure and funding for community investments,” Mrs Whiting said.
“It’s time people fed up with the city madness to reconsider their choices, and the Riverina should be at the top of their list.”
Mrs Whiting said urban dwellers needed to let go of the misconception “there are only opportunities and excitement in city locations”.
“This simply isn’t true – and the Riverina isn’t just about agriculture either,” she said.
“Many industries are thriving and we need more skilled workers to help reach our potential.”
Exemplifying the notion that opportunities exist in regional areas like the Riverina are Andre and Keryl de Haan (aged 58- and 47-years-old, respectively), who run Sweet Briar Bed and Breakfast in Coolamon.
The couple and their children moved to the area from Sydney about seven years ago for the rural lifestyle.
“We were pretty settled in Sydney, but it wasn’t until we visited that the idea was seeded,” Mr de Han said.
“We weren’t desperate to move to the country, but the chance to have our own business in a relaxed and enjoyable environment brought us here.”
We weren’t desperate to move to the country, but the chance to have our own business in a relaxed and enjoyable environment brought us here.Andre de Haan
He cited the lower cost of living and the sense of community as additional pulling factors.
In June, the Federal Government’s Regions at the Ready report showed that the majority of Australians still believed that regional centres were “second rate” places to live.
The report found that 40 per cent of Australians are now living in Sydney or Melbourne with residents feeling pressured by the congestion and distressed at the ever-increasing cost of living.
It stated that investment in rural economies may alleviate those metropolitan problems.
Mrs Whting said that “recognising the decision to move away isn’t always easy”, which is why the RDA Riverina created the Country Change initiative to help people decide.
“Country Change provides the tools and resources to research a move and help make the transition easier,” Mrs Whiting said.
Report: Regions at the Ready