Moving to the country? Keep expectations in check
The Sector > Workforce > Advocacy > Those who move to the country expect too much from life in the bush, advocates say

Those who move to the country expect too much from life in the bush, advocates say

by Freya Lucas

June 20, 2024

People who move to rural areas for the lifestyle benefits are creating issues for local councils, with high expectations of all the convenience and accessibility of life in a bigger city or town, a collection of country councils have noted in a submission to a Parliamentary Inquiry into local government sustainability.


The inquiry was instituted following a referral from the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, the Hon Catherine King MP.


Chief amongst the feedback from Councils is that the services which make a community thrive, such as early childhood education and care (ECEC), health care and aged care are under pressure as more people move from cities. 


The growing population of the Berrigan Shire, on the Murray River, is one example, with predictions noting a 30 per cent increase in population numbers in the next ten years. 


While the predicted growth will increase the rate base for the council by $1 million, the council says it will need $50 million for basic infrastructure like water and sewerage, leaving them with a negative sum outcome.


Several submissions from other council laid bare the difficulties faced by rural councils due to apparent cost shifting from state and federal governments, “unfair” rate pegging limits and short-term grants.


South Australia’s Coorong District Council is another example, with their submission noting the council is responsible for a 2000 km network of roads, with only 3,500 rate payers to fund it.


Port Hedland, in the remote Pilbara region of Western Australia is attempting to balance the need for new residents with the challenges of inadequate infrastructure by ‘propping up’ services with public and private investment, which so far has been unsuccessful. 


As a result ratepayers will spend $40 million over five years to build a unit block for essential workers, along with $3 million to expand a childcare centre.


“Neither of these examples are considered part of the role of local government however if the town fails to act … this has a negative impact on our community, leading to reductions in the residential population and an increase on the reliance of fly-in-fly-out workers,” the council’s submission notes.


The Australian Local Government Association is calling on the federal government to increase untied funding to at least one per cent of tax revenue to respond to these concerns.

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