Melbourne workers moving to regional Victoria

The survey findings indicated most people moved to regional Victoria for lifestyle reasons rather than leaving Melbourne for job opportunities.

The movement trend has placed major strain on regional housing markets.

Figures released by Domain last month showed almost every local government area in regional Victoria experienced double-digit house price growth over the past year as more people leave Melbourne.

The Loddon, Warrnambool, Mansfield, Surf Coast and Alpine council areas recorded the strongest growth.

Ghin said governments and local councils faced increasing pressure to provide infrastructure and meet the growing demand for services, such as healthcare.

And this could strain relationships between newcomers and long-standing residents who might struggle to afford a place to live, access schools or even find parking near shopping centres.

“That does start to create potential divisiveness in the community.”

But Ghin said he remained optimistic and hoped ex-Melburnians could bring skills and expertise that would benefit regional employers and the communities to which they were moving.

Rural Councils Victoria committee chair Mary-Ann Brown said country house prices were going up because of increased demand and Melburnians could often pay more for regional homes after selling more expensive properties in the city.

“The question is will that trend continue?” she said. “My sense is it probably will.”

But Brown, who lives in the west Victorian town of Dunkeld, said she had seen newcomers to country communities building relationships by volunteering in local groups.

“They’re people who have come into the community often by choice and wanted to make a contribution, so they’ve become involved,” she said.

“They’re bringing new skills, energy and ideas. That can be a really good thing.”

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Many regional businesses cannot attract workers.

The latest unemployment figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed that unemployment fell to 3 per cent for the three months to February, compared to the regional average of 4 per cent.

Brown hopes that long commutes to and from Melbourne may encourage some workers to seek jobs locally.

Regional Australia Institute chief economist Kim Houghton said job vacancies were increasing despite rising populations outside the major cities. He said industries such as education, law, accounting, health and construction were struggling to find workers.

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