Legislative Council: Wednesday, September 13, 2023


Mount Gambier

The Hon. B.R. HOOD (15:39): I rise to update the chamber on some positive developments in Mount Gambier. A recent article from ABC South East that told of millennials flocking to Mount Gambier for jobs and lifestyle, but house prices and rents continuing to rise, captured both the positive and negative aspects of this development. It is exciting news that more young people are opting to change scenery and move to our beautiful South-East community, and I warmly welcome them as a proud resident of Mount Gambier.

According to data from the Regional Australia Institute, 70 per cent of individuals who relocated to the Mount Gambier local government area in the first quarter of 2023 were millennials. Liz Ritchie, the CEO of the institute, attributes the surge of young people to affordable housing and increased job opportunities, terming it a 'regional renaissance'.

The Big Movers 2023 Report by the RAI reveals that an additional 54,000 millennials have moved to Australia's regions compared with the previous five years, reversing a net loss of 37,000 millennials observed from 2011 to 2016. This influx also includes many highly skilled and educated individuals from overseas, showcasing a dynamic change in our regional landscape.

Belinda Anderson, who was interviewed by ABC South East and previously lived in Sydney, Birdsville and Mount Isa, has played a pivotal role in expanding the Young Professionals Network, with its membership growing from 500 people to over 1,100 in the past six months. I commend her and appreciate the vibrancy and talent that millennial individuals like Belinda bring to Mount Gambier, our state's second biggest city.

However, as the article rightly highlights, the challenge of providing housing for a growing number of young people is certainly there. Domain reports that rents in regional SA have surged by 42 per cent since the start of the pandemic, with median house sales and rents reaching record levels.

As I have argued previously in my time as deputy mayor and councillor of the City of Mount Gambier, to grow the city we can either expand out and take up vital agricultural land, or we can grow up and allow for multistorey living within the city bounds. Large four-bedroom homes are unsuitable for many young professionals, whereas smaller apartments would be more conducive to their lifestyle. It would improve the vibrancy of Mount Gambier's CBD and free up existing housing stock for families. Non-detached or medium-density dwellings, what the RAI refers to as the 'missing middle', are lacking in our regional towns.

Housing diversity is required to ensure we are meeting the needs and preferences of this new cohort of tree changers, who are often young, single professionals and skilled tradespeople. All levels of government must work together to ensure sufficient and suitable housing stock is made available to sustain these positive trends in regional migration.

While I am on my feet, I would like to congratulate the Mount Gambier Chamber of Commerce and the Women in Business and Regional Development for promoting the South-East business community through their 2023 Business Awards. The awards were held on 18 August and saw the induction of Wendy Richardson's Red Gum Country into the Mount Gambier Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame for her business's 30 years of outstanding customer service.

Raison Detre Creative Co's Rene Veno won the Women in Business and Regional Development scholarship, which provides $2,000 for self-development and to support her on her business journey. I also wish to congratulate the award winners in eight other categories, namely:

Illumident Mount Gambier for the Large Business Growth and Resilience Award;

Alex Marlow of Gym Challenge Meals in the Small Business Growth and Resilience category;

Just frank in the Micro Business Growth and Resilience category;

Eirene Couzens of Metro Bakery and Cafe for the Intrapreneur Leader in a Business Award;

Key 2 Sale for the Commitment to People and Culture Award;

ac.care for the Community Conscious Award;

Dr Isabel Holmes for the Courageous Business Leader Award; and

the three Champions of Business Award winners: Bill Burley from Blue Lake Bar and Bistro, Di Ind from Limestone Coast Solutions and Rachael Ashman from Regional Development Australia Limestone Coast.

I want to congratulate all of these inspiring South-East businesspeople and extend a huge thankyou to executive officer Jacinta Jones from Women in Business and Regional Development, and Candice Fennell, President of the Mount Gambier Chamber of Commerce, and both of those committees for presenting the 2023 Business Awards in Mount Gambier.