City slickers are loving their new lives in the country.
Two years after one of the more surprising oddities of the pandemic hit the headlines, thousands of new residents are happy with their decision.
Regional Australia's population grew by 71,000 people during 2020-21, in contrast to a decline of 26,000 for the capital cities.
New research into the exodus of people from Australian cities to the regions has investigated whether the tide of people will slow now restrictions have lifted.
But there's no signs of that, says reports from the University of Melbourne and the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute.
Research for the institute's report came from UNSW Sydney, RMIT University, University of Sydney and University of South Australia.
It found a few city people are already regretting their move to the country, but the majority think it is one of the best decisions they have made.
A shortage of housing, lack of high paying jobs and health/education concerns were raised in the two reports.
The new country residents listed the top three reasons for their move from the city as - better lifestyle/amenity, being closer to the natural environment and housing affordability.
The University of Melbourne's "The Great Migration" found "an overwhelming majority" of people it surveyed were "extremely satisfied" with their move to regional Victoria.
Only two per cent expressed some dissatisfaction.
"These findings suggest that the migration to regional Victoria has been a very positive experience for most respondents, with few people having regrets about their decision to do so," the study found.
Surprisingly the report found many had planned to move to the country even before the pandemic hit.
Almost 7 out of 10 people surveyed after the first Victorian lockdown indicated they already had intentions to move.
People aged between 45-64 were more likely to migrate to rural Victoria while people who were 18-24 years old were more likely to migrate to a regional city.
Older people were even happier with their move to rural areas.
Researchers found 80pc of people settled in regional Victorian locations within 150km of their former Melbourne home.
It again suggests the city escapees were hedging their bets on a call back to the office after restrictions lifted, staying within a two hour commute of the major cities.
Women were found to be happier with their new digs in the country than men which researchers suggested "may, in part, reflect the general tendency of females to build more intimate and fewer transactional social relationships than men".
Many seniors aged over 65 who moved to the regions said they had easily made new friendships since their move which the report suggested was partly because of their "higher inclination" towards volunteerism.
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The AHURI research suggests regional growth policies should focus on improving labour markets, which would then attract population.
Development goals should focus on making regional Australia an attractive place to live and work, rather than promoting growth as a solution to metropolitan population pressures
The institute's research focused on five case study cities - Albury-Wodonga, Cairns, Mildura, Whyalla and Wollongong.
The research "Understanding the lived experience and benefits of regional cities" explored the experience of residents to better understand the benefits and disadvantages of living in a regional city.
Having affordable, spacious housing had appealed to young families.
The downside was that some in regional and rural areas said the affordability and availability of regional housing - particularly rental - was declining because of the new arrivals.
They also worried about losing the "village" or small town appeal of their towns.
"This sense of disquiet indicates that regional growth policies need to show how population growth will benefit regional communities, rather than be something that just happens to them," the institute said.
New residents found they were always able to maintain income levels when moving from a major metropolitan area.
"Some participants who had relocated from metropolitan areas found they had to adjust their expectations of work and career when faced with regional labour markets," the research found.
"One Albury-Wodonga resident indicated they had taken a 30pc salary cut on moving to the area. This salary cut, together with a lack of available career progression, was a driving factor behind not wanting to stay in the region."
People also raised concerns about the likelihood of increasing demands on health and education as a result of population growth.
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