LOCALS are being urged to act as “community evangelists” and convert city slickers to the virtues of going bush.
The call comes ahead of this weekend’s CountryNSW Expo, an annual recruitment drive aimed at luring Sydneysiders to resettle in regional areas.
Event organiser Peter Bailey from the Armidale-based Foundation for Regional Development will welcome a contingent of councils, chambers of commerce and schools from Armidale, Liverpool Plains and Inverell to the expo at Homebush.
He said while the event acted as a showcase for some of the benefits of living outside major cities, the most powerful recruitment tool was personal stories.
“We know we’ve got a better lifestyle here but 25 per cent of Sydneysiders were born overseas and many would have no idea where Tamworth or Armidale is,” Mr Bailey said.
“Many locals have family and friends that are struggling in Sydney with the house prices, the commute, the crime.
“We want them to encourage those people to consider moving here. Nothing beats face-to-face marketing.”
He said the benefits of a population boost for local centres were obvious.
“If we become too small we lose our voice and that means not as much money will flow from the government for infrastructure,” Mr Bailey said.
“A few more thousand people in Tamworth, for example, could be the difference in getting a second airline to Sydney.”
As part of the display at the Country-NSW Expo, participating local towns will attempt to challenge perceptions about regional areas.
“People don’t think there are any jobs here but we will put a jobs board up with about 500 positions,” Mr Bailey said.
“We’ll also show the prices of some of our real estate.
“We’re asking people to make the biggest decision of their lives, to move their families, change their child’s school and find a new job.”
He said research showed those most likely to make the “tree change” were people with family here, who had previously lived here or who had holidayed here.