Queensland has regained its mantle as a population magnet for disgruntled NSW and Victorian residents with a dramatic turnaround in net interstate migration to its highest level in a decade.
While the numbers fall short of the almost 40,000 net interstate migrants who flocked into Queensland in 2002, the boost in population growth has been welcomed by new Queensland Treasurer Jackie Trad who is looking to kick-start the state’s economy which has struggled since the global economic downturn and the end of the mining boom.
Cheaper houses and job opportunities are the biggest drivers of the latest population surge with Queensland on track to top 5 million residents for the first time by the middle of the year.
A surge in taxation revenue is expected to be revealed in Ms Trad’s first budget in June, with the Palaszczuk government hamstrung by its election commitment not to sell public assets, relying on economic growth to fill the state’s coffers.
Queensland received net interstate migration of 17,426 people in 2016-17 – a 50 per cent increase on the previous year (11,600) and the largest since 2008 – followed by Victoria (17,182) and then a big gap to Tasmania (741) and the ACT (663).
NSW (-14,859), Western Australia (-11,722), South Australia (-5941) and the Northern Territory (-3490) all lost more residents to other states than they gained last financial year.
Queensland’s population growth hit 1.6 per cent – on par with the national average and behind only Victoria (2.3 per cent) and the ACT (1.7 per cent) – with strong net overseas migration helping keep the population counting ticking over.
The Palaszczuk Labor government recently revised population growth up from 1.5 per cent in 2018-19 to 1.75 per cent with the state’s growth rate expected to top 3 per cent next financial year.
After last year’s state election victory, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is banking on the economy hitting its straps in 2018.
Ms Trad said NSW and Victorian residents were voting with their feet by heading north with interstate migration hitting 10-year highs.
“It’s great news for the local economy that more people want to call Queensland home. People know that in Queensland they can get the Sunshine State lifestyle, cheaper cost of living and ample employment opportunities,” she said.
High real estate prices and job opportunities are the perennial drivers of southerners heading north, with a Sydneysider being able to sell their homes and buy one for half the price in Brisbane.
While the gap between Brisbane and Sydney house prices have closed since the early 2000s, Brisbane is still perceived as being better value, with new residents being able to secure a family home within 10 kilometres from the CBD for a much cheaper price than the NSW capital.
School fees and childcare is also more affordable in Brisbane.
The influx of new residents is also expected to drive home price growth in Queensland as well as deal with the over-supply of apartments in the Brisbane market.
Brisbane-based economist Nick Behrens, a director with Queensland Economic Advocacy Solutions, said Queensland’s economy was bouncing back despite its lowly rankings, along with another mining state WA, in recent economic surveys.
He said the biggest driver of the resurgent interstate migration was jobs and lifestyle.
“Population will always flow towards employment opportunity and Queensland at present is the golden example of that rule,” he said.
“Queensland is currently experiencing both the strongest employment growth and highest net interstate migration gain since prior to the GFC. This is not just correlation but more importantly causation. As jobs are being created in the Sunshine State, southerners are coupling employment opportunity with lifestyle and are choosing to come north.”
The peak of Queensland’s migration wave was in 2002-03 when a net figure of 39,207 residents moved north of the Tweed, with then Labor premier Peter Beattie crowing about 1500 people moving to the state each week. The flow eased off to about 25,000 a year in 2007 and then to only 5750 in the year to June 2014.
Net interstate migration has slowly recovered in the past few years and is expected to continue to growth in 2018.