The New South Wales government’s $188 million plan to encourage regional relocation has been labelled a “farce” and “a waste of funds” with fewer than 2000 home owners taking advantage.
The Regional Relocation Grant offers residents in metropolitan areas such as Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong a $7000 incentive to move to regional NSW.
The four-year scheme has been capped at 40,000 grants, but figures from the Office of State Revenue show just 1363 grants were provided across NSW between June 2011 until October last year. And an embarrassing loophole has meant that you only have to move one suburb away to cash in – which is what the bulk of buyers have done, according to reports.
The figures have prompted Keira MP Ryan Park to brand the plan a “farce” calling on Premier Barry O’Farrell to step in and axe the grants scheme.
“The government should be embarrassed that individuals are paid $7000 to move what’s literally across a bridge…when the community is crying out for important infrastructure and services,” he said.
Minster for the Illawarra Greg Pearce acknowledged the uptake of grants was disappointing: “The Regional Relocation Grant is designed to encourage people to make a sea or tree change and are an attractive incentive, particularly for those families already considering a move from large cities to regional areas.”
“While the uptake of these grants is disappointing, the NSW government will continue to work to encourage growth in regional areas, generating jobs and stimulating local economies.”
The truth about a sea or tree change
Swapping congested city streets for a sea breeze or a breath of fresh country air sounds idyllic. More affordable housing options can be a big drawcard to leave the cities, too, with the added bonus of reducing your home loan burden.
But is a sea or tree change all it’s cracked up to be?
The National Sea Change Taskforce estimates over the next 15 years 1 million city slickers will trade in the daily grind for a more peaceful existence. But of those who do make the shift around half, sooner or later, go back to where they came from.
So why the about face?
Andrew Winter, host of Selling Houses Australia, says tree changers and sea changers tend to fall in love with the place while they are on holidays.
“The practicality of living in a small community is very different from enjoying a few weeks of living the life of luxury,” he said.
Jobs are often harder to come by, he said: “Unemployment is often 10 percent higher in tree change and sea change locations compared to more populated areas.”
Tips for relocating
So how can you avoid making a very expensive mistake?
Do your homework, says Winter.
“Visit an area at different times of the year because it can feel very different in the depths of winter to the glorious days of summer,” he said. “And whilst you’re there speak to the locals – they are the ones who will give you the real low down on their sleepy little town.”
Finally, he says, have a sensible financial plan: “Secure a job before you move and try renting for a while and see if they place is the right fit.”