A new population policy to be introduced shortly by the Federal Government may force migrants to live outside major cities in Australia. The policy has been framed to address the pressures of increasing congestion in capital cities such as Sydney and Melbourne.

Net overseas migration accounted for 60 percent of Australia’s overall population growth with 75 percent of that in Sydney, Melbourne and southeast Queensland. Federal minister for Cities, Urban Infrastructure and Population Alan Tudge has proposed geographic or specialised regional visas to keep migrants out of cities for up to five years.

However, RiskWise Property Research CEO Doron Peleg says restricting migration to regional areas is not a proper solution to the rising congestion. I

nstead, the Government needs to provide positive measures to encourage people to live in areas outside of major capital cities for which a long-term sustainable plan is needed.

According to Peleg, people tend to move to places where there are jobs and they will even move interstate to get them.

This was clearly demonstrated in Western Australia and Queensland during the mining boom when there was a surge in both population and house prices.

Peleg suggests a combination of economic activity and housing affordability to make regional areas more attractive to migrants rather than forcing them to move to areas where they don’t have suitable work. Since ‘skilled migration’ is a key pillar of a successful migration strategy, it’s important to provide the right incentive for such migrants.

For example, migrants in the IT sector may struggle to find jobs outside the major employment hubs. Therefore, the primary objective is to create jobs all over Australia first.

He said the introduction of a ‘national plan of settlement’ by the government was a step in the right direction.

The Building Up & Moving Out report tabled recently focuses on population, employment, the economy of cities and regions, socially and environmentally sustainable development, and connectivity between the cities and the regions with an emphasis on housing affordability.

It recommends that the Australian Government develop a framework for the development of cities and regions outside the major metropolitan centres, undertake the development of transport networks, which allow for fast transit between cities and regions, ensure urban and regional infrastructure is developed, and appoint a minister for Cities and National Settlement.

This plan will not only encourage people to move into regional areas but will also solve the housing affordability issue by reducing demand in the major cities.

Various states are already focussing on regional areas through initiatives that will encourage the population to move away from the major centres.

Queensland is doing it through its $15 billion infrastructure development program in the southeast as well as the Advance Queensland Business Development Fund, which focuses on the growth of innovative businesses and emerging industries.

The NSW Government’s 20-year vision aims to promote regional development and job creation by providing the required infrastructure, services and support. The Northern Territory will give families that move into ‘high priority jobs’ more than $15,000 over five years as part of its population strategy.