THE state government has relaxed the rules for citysiders looking for a tree change but it’s unlikely to boost population numbers in the New England North West.
The move, which came into effect last week, is aiming to enhance the regional relocation program with $7000 grants on offer for those that shift more than 50 kilometres from metropolitan areas.
Foundation for Regional Development CEO Peter Bailey said the fringe areas of Newcastle, Sydney and Wollongong will be the winners from the changes which lowers the distance threshold from 100km.
“It’ll have an impact in terms of moving people to the lower Hunter, the Blue Mountains, the Southern Highlands and lower parts of the Illawarra,” he told The Leader.
“Until the government supports a program to build the awareness of regional and country NSW, it’s not going to change anything.”
Under the distance rule for the relocation scheme, families can now access the funding if they move at least 50km away and the relocation is not to an adjacent local government area.
The government said the change was enacted so those living in Sydney’s outer suburbs like Penrith would have the same options to relocate as those living in the eastern or northern suburbs.
Mr Bailey said the government was failing to sell the opportunities that exist in country NSW.
Instead, he believes Sydney residents only hear about the bush when issues like the drought are showcased, highlighting “dead sheep and empty dams.”
“We had said it won’t work unless you build a regional marketing allowance and they haven’t done it,” he said.
“We’ve now got a situation where 25 per cent of Sydney-siders were born overseas.
“How the hell would they know where Tamworth is, let alone Gunnedah or Narrabri?”
The new rule means Sydney-siders can move from places like Penrith to Lithgow, Newcastle to Singleton or Wollongong to Nowra and take the funding if they tick all the right boxes.
Evocities spokesperson James Treloar said the relaxed distance rule won’t have dramatic changes in the numbers but the scheme was a carrot for those eager to shift.
“I think it’s good, it brings equity into a place like Lithgow,” he said yesterday.
“I don’t have any problems with those places getting those opportunities.”
Instead, Mr Treloar said regional areas need to sell job opportunities if they are to compete.
“You can’t sell a declining community and that’s one of the issues we face,” he said.
“Some of these areas are declining so it’s a marketing nightmare.
“The single most important factor is an opportunity for employment.”