Sydneysiders flee crush-loading

By Leith van Onselen

Over recent months, there’s been a flood of stories about how Sydney residents are being forced to leave the city due to its high cost of living and degrading quality of life.

According to analysis late last year by economist Callam Pickering, many of the workers leaving Sydney are high skilled, meaning the city is experiencing a ‘drain brain’.

Fairfax also reported in February that essential workers had fleed Sydney’s inner and middle suburbs, driven-out by the high cost-of-living (namely housing):

Today, The ABC continues this theme, reporting that many young Sydneysiders are planning their escape from the city, again forced-out by the high cost of living:

When my wife and I started telling our friends about our plans to move our family out of Sydney and head for the wider spaces and less aggressive rents of Adelaide, something unexpected happened.

Around three quarters of the people confessed that they too had an exit strategy planned.

One was slowly moving stuff into his parents’ garage in Newcastle ahead of a planned relocation.

Another couple had been inspecting properties in Perth with a view to moving when they decided to have kids.

Another had sent their partner ahead to look at opportunities on the Gold Coast before they committed to taking the plunge.

And friends that had moved to Hobart joked that they were hosting guests every weekend as Sydneysiders popped down to check the city out…

The people who were determined to stay in Sydney weren’t sure how they could manage long term. Even those who weren’t fearing a budget-busting rent increase spoke darkly of rumoured developments or shared stories of compulsory acquisitions that didn’t come close to paying for an equivalent property.

Everyone seemed to feel like they were one unexpected redundancy or medical crisis away from their entire economic system collapsing…

Everyone seems squeezed a little more every day — financially by rent bumps or road tolls or public transport increases, or physically by smaller and smaller properties and imposing developments lining every road, or emotionally by a city that seems culturally disinterested — whether that’s selling off the Powerhouse or begrudgingly winding back lock-out laws years after most of the city’s venues have vanished.

The latest population figures for NSW showed that the state received a whopping 98,570 net overseas migrants in the year to June 2017, but lost nearly 15,000 residents interstate:

The NSW Government’s own population projections also show that Sydney’s population will balloon by 1.74 million over the next 20-years, 1.53 million of which will come from net overseas migration:

Whereas Infrastructure Australia’s latest report showed that no matter what Sydney does to cope with the migrant influx – i.e. builds up, spreads-out, or does a combination of the two – public transport’s modal share will barely increase, road congestion will dramatically worsen, and access to jobs, schools, hospitals and green space will all deteriorate as Sydney’s population balloons to 7.4 million people by 2046:

Fake Left mass immigration advocates call this ‘cultural enrichment’. Everyone else sees it for what it is: housing unaffordability, wage stagnantion, congestion, pollution, and the overall destruction in Sydney’s quality of life.

Abandoning Australia’s mass immigration ‘Big Australia’ policy would stop this dystopian future from coming to fruition.

Low immigration would improve income/wealth inequality and home ownership as there would be less upward pressure on house prices, as well as less economic rents flowing to the owners of capital (who benefit the most from mass immigration while ordinary residents bear the costs).

Wages growth would also improve, other things equal, as there would be less competition for jobs and workers’ bargaining power is increased, which would also help to reduce inequality.

There would also be less youth unemployment, as employers would be incentivised to hire and train young workers and graduates rather than taking the easy route of importing a migrant.

Lower population growth would also lift productivity and income by decongesting cities and, over the long run, would share Australia’s fixed national endowment of resources among fewer people, also ensuring higher income per capita.

In short, cutting the immigration intake back towards the historical average of around 70,000 people a year (from 210,000 currently) is a no-brainer for anybody concerned about inequality and quality of life.

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  1. there are a lot of people moving to dubbo. there’s several new housing projects being developed on the west and south side of the town, and some probable white elephant apartment development floated for the main street. look at this shite:

    mass immigration doesnt even have to directly occur in your town to ruin it. the ripple effect of it creating native economic refugees is more than enough.

    • I heard Dr Jay Song wants to escape the immigration crush of the city and move to dubbo and live in one of the main street dog boxes

    • Happening here in Newcastle.. bubble contagion resulting in stupidly high house prices, and the endless construction of apartments everywhere, new housing estates etc.. there seems to have been a lot of Sydney flowing in

      If it’s this bad this far up the coast, i can only imagine what the Central Coast is like..

      • Stone the Crows

        Real estate in Newcastle is beyond insane, looking at the cost of really old shitty properties located on minuscule blocks in the inner suburbs makes my head spin. When property starts to flail and over-leveraged punters start to sell Newcastle will be absolutely belted, including the entire central coast.

      • That’s what i thought! I believe the median income in Newcastle and Hunter region is around $46k.. Houses in Mayfield (one of many examples) are pushing $600k.. In ‘nicer’ suburbs (the bar is set fairly low), prices seem to escalate further.

        There’s not much of a local economy.. are there really so many workers commuting to Sydney from Newcastle?

      • Stone the Crows

        The commute from Newcastle would have to be absolute hell (although the bit through Wondabyne is pretty awesome), so anybody doing it on a regular basis would have to turn into a brain dead zombie, that would be a huge chunk out of your day committed to sitting on your bum. I did it from Avoca Beach to North Sydney for two years, more than 4 hours out of your day when considering delays. Drove me crazy, and made a vow to never be more than 30 minutes from work. I reckon someone would get suicidal, committed to a huge mortgage, property plummeting, negative equity, while doing that commute. !!!

    • Does Dubbo have sufficient water resources for all of these new arrivals? The 4 Corners episode and QandA did not touch water security. We can not keep this unsustainable population growth without ignoring our finite water resources.

      • nothing to worry about, a highly skilled Korean lady who has been living here for 2 years set us silly natives straight on that

      • surflessMEMBER

        There is a nice dam near wellington called burrendong dam. Built to manage floods and provide water for irrigation. Now provides majority of water for Dubbo. In the last drought, dubbo was spared the worst but irrigators lost out. This single dam has huge demands from domestic, irrigation and feeds the Macquarie marsh near warren. So I don’t know whether the dam can maintain the growing demand for water.

      • Mining BoganMEMBER

        Alby, that’s it! Ive been wondering what she reminded me of.

        It’s Captain Parmenter talking ‘respectfully’ to Chief Wild Eagle while everyone else stands around looking uncomfortable…although the good Captain was trying to be respectful in his own clumsy way. Not like that Jay lady. She evil.

      • Cut to zero and send the rest home: see Mikes figures on overstayers, $457, ‘backpackers’ et al.
        Personally I could care less for cultural diversity and given current circumstances refuse to pay $15 for flavoured water masquerading as pho – rather boil a few verges in a pot and call it soup /stew.

    • Immigration does have benefits, as long as the level is not too high. 70K seems like a good “sweet spot”.

  2. THis is not correct , not even close:Wages growth would also improve, other things equal, as there would be less competition for jobs and workers’ bargaining power is increased, which would also help to reduce inequality.
    There would also be less youth unemployment, as employers would be incentivised to hire and train young workers and graduates rather than taking the easy route of importing a migrant.
    WW Future jobs will be undertaken by AI.
    Atlassian told us yesterday, warned us in no uncertain terms.
    All you guys patronise the CSIRO when they speak of global warming, but they are pariahs when they advise of 40% job disruption in 10 years.

    • I would never patronise the CSIRO, for all the damage done let’s face it that is one organisation that could really benefit Aus’ future.

      • @Haroldus, I hope this is one your humor lines.
        Recently I took a (rather generous) redundancy from there. Mid-management heaven, funded largely by the taxpayer.
        Almost all the good people left in 2014, after the barbaric funding cuts. Those who stayed are the managers and scientist who could not get a job anywhere else (at least not at a comparable salary level).

    • It’s the costs of the young that really worries me most, especially as I don’t believe the costs associated with a large chunk of young people never gaining higher level skills over their lifetime, let alone those that never join the work force, are simply not captured in the costings of how long it is before immigrants turn a profit for Australia. I’m all for immigration provided it’s really needed, that means we should only be bringing in skilled migrants when there is a genuine shortage (as during the mining boom) certainly not now. I agree with you employers MUST be forced or given incentive (eg you can have a 457 only if you train a “bludger”) to train local youth to fill these roles & get them the high paying jobs &/or off the public teet for their lifetime. Else these under utilised people are a drag on Austalia at best, even more so given the figures that show so many immigrants are not actually achieving their full potential either. Both of these groups point to lowered per capita productivity, I would think.

  3. truthisfashionable

    As a Sydneysider I’m watching the south Australian election with more interest than I ever thought I would. I feel like another 4 years of Jay Weatherill’s government and the execution on their current policies will be the tipping point for the state to attract more younger people. Already starting to see ‘green tech’ international and growing Aus companies base their operations in the state.
    The tram network is planned to expand with the goal of keeping it a 20min city, but also seems perfect for electric cars with city to beach to hills being within range of current vehicles.

    • +1 been thinking along the same lines recently. Nearly bought there a few months back also. I quite liked Adelaide when I visited too!

    • Yes, it was never somewhere I ever have considered living until recently, now it’s on the radar (not that I intend to move right now)

    • I feel sorry for you Sydney siders, truly I do. But the reason it’s nicer to live in SA is there are less people here – it won’t be so nice if everyone from the East comes over.

      I guess young STEM types that want to work on green tech are better than all the retired Victorians putting a burden on medical services, though.

      • Truth is I only moved here 6 years back haroldus, came from ACT.

        Spent 12 years in Canberra, in 4 different rentals – looked for houses to buy every now and then and could never find anything that seemed remotely worth what they were asking. Move to SA and buy the first place we lived in when the owner decided to sell – 4 beds, two bathrooms, reasonable yard, double brick, on the coast, near the train and cheaper than a 2 bedroom apartment over East.

        As the crow below me says, if you can secure reasonable work, or come loaded with cash, it’s worth the move.

    • Stone the Crows

      If your job prospects in Adelaide are good then do not hesitate in moving there for a far better lifestyle and cheaper housing. Adelaide is a great place in terms of livability, the immediate surrounds are fantastic and commuting is not a life-sapping exercise. And as I have stated previously substitute the tap water for bottled water or Coopers Ale even and then everything falls into place. Once you learn to understand the locals and make acquaintances Adelaide will grow on you.

      Warning: Both the Adelaide and Port footy supporters are unbearable, do not engage in football talk and all will be fine and Dandy !

      PS: Disclosure, long suffering Tigers supporter, oh such a joy they gave the crows a flogging in the Grand Final…

      • I made the jump across from Adelaide to Tiger territory as I was made redundant. Melbourne would have been great 35 years ago. It’s a decrepit and derelict version of its former self. Piss stained and covered in rainbow Yes stickers.

        Oh and both supporters you mentioned are insufferable peasants.

  4. Meanwhile rich Sydney pensioners can enjoy the multi-million dollar homes and leech off a government pension.

    This article is about America but also applies to Sydney:

    How the baby boomers — not millennials — screwed America
    The boomers inherited a rich, dynamic country and have gradually bankrupted it. They habitually cut their own taxes and borrow money without any concern for future burdens. They’ve spent virtually all our money and assets on themselves and in the process have left a financial disaster for their children.

    We used to have the finest infrastructure in the world. Now it’s crumbling, and the boomers have allowed it to crumble. Our public education system has steadily degraded as well, forcing middle-class students to bury themselves in debt in order to get a college education.

    • Sounds like a bit of envy there Eric. Rather than blame baby boomers as a group, why not look at those who actually think up and implement these policies.

  5. Sydney sees itself as as global city so are those churn rates equivalent to major cities, let alone the top echelon of truly global cities.

  6. Last year I ran into a group of newly graduated medical specialists at a pub. They were from all around the country attending a conference, and the ones from Sydney and Newcastle were talking about how to get out of NSW and relocating to Adelaide or Brisbane due to excessive house prices. When you consider that the base pay for these guys would start at 180-200k pa in a public job, it’s no surprise that a lot of people on less would be thinking the same thing.

  7. Hopefully they will all stay the phuq away from Canberra, where the house prices are more than high enough already. We don’t want a flood of bankrupted and bedraggled ex-Sydney medical specialists, engineers and IT people shambling down the Hume into the ACT.

    • Fortunately Canberra’s (unjustified but widespread) reputation as a dull sterile sh!thole is prevalent among Sydneysiders, who would never move here and know they would be mocked endlessly by their Sydney mates if they ever did. They are happy to buy an investment property here but not live here. Too mundane for words daaahhlings.

      Basically they want coast if they ever leave Sh!tney.

      • I’m doing everything I can to promote Canberra’s reputation as a dull and sterile shithole! The last thing we want is Sydneysiders thinking the place is liveable.

      • Damn right. In fact I’m surprised you could even type that given the 1960s infrastructure, freezing sub zero temps (when we aren’t on fire) and endless stench of politicians which permanently pervades our ghastly little country town 😉

      • Canberra is awesome. It has that 75 metres of Lonsdale Street where you see tattooed, bearded hipsters. An undiscovered gem and actually quite cool. Hotel Hotel also. Uber funky.

      • It’s true. We have a hotel and three hipster refuges. We have a city centre that never sleeps (by that I mean one restaurant that serves ramen until 1am). We have falling down houses built by government in the 60s and falling down apartments built with government collusion from 2012 until the present (get one now!). We have three artificial lakes and once Russell Crowe accidentally landed here and threw a telephone into all three of them.

        We are basically an inland Sydney. Come one come all!

    • Move higher up the mountains. The Sydneysiders can’t stand cold or dry air, and especially hate an absence of surfable waves.

      Don’t go too high though, I think some of them are into snowboarding.

      • Comparing Dubbo to Canberra is really gonna piss stagmal off. Everybody knows that Dubbo is an observably superior boutique destination for poverty stricken refugees from the horrors of Sydney over the living hell that is Canberra.

        Everyone fleeing Sydney, choose wisely, choose Dubbo.

      • trust me sydney siders you dont want to go to dubbo, its a bad place. WILCANNIA right now is where it’s at. you’re missing out on some serious investment and lifestyle opportunities if you pass up the opportunity to live in wilcannia.

      • Wilcannia? LMFAO. Wake In Fright was set there if I recall correctly. Why stop there? Birdsville has a nice race meeting once a year.

    • I read that last night. There were 99 comments at that time. 80% of the comments supported the author’s views very strongly. 10% were incoherent. 10% looked like they were drafted by the Korean lady from Melb Uni.

      • So, in total, 20% of the responses were incoherent nonsense then?

        I think Q&A really shot themselves in the foot by having a recent immigrant with evidently huge conflict of interest lecturing the whole country on the benefits of excessive immigration. It just wasn’t a good look, at all.

    • I noticed that Dr Demography replied to this article on twitter with a very juvenile GIF. More juvenile than accusing us of fear for discussing a reduction in the immigration rate.

    • Kennett had an opinion piece in the Herald Sun arguing against a reduction in the immigration rate.

      • He needs to get back on the Zoloft then. Or Prozac, or whatever it is he uses to keep his condition under control.

  8. I dream daily about getting out of Sydney too, but I wonder, is now really the best time to be making the move?

    If the Australian economy is going to struggle in the years ahead as MB predicts and many of us believe, it’s going to be the smaller cities and regions that will suffer the most – Sydney would perform relatively well, despite the housing hangover.

    Tasmania, for example, may look like the next big thing, but its economy has been boosted by a flood of hot money from mainland sea changers and retirees. Where are the industries that will sustain its economy long term?

    • nowhere.

      industry – long term — what do you think this is, somewhere that isnt australia???

    • Correct, all the industry growth here in Tasmania is in tourism related and real estate.

    • That must be the case in Sydney. Walk around the CBD during the day, seems like only 1 in 10 people are Caucasian these days.

      Interestingly my Asian friends said Sydney more resembles Singapore now, it is no longer a Aussie city. They reckon going to places like Adelaide or Hobart you get back that feeling of relaxed and friendly.

  9. Emigration tidbits…

    Table 2 – 3401.0 – Overseas Arrivals and Departures, Australia, Jan 2017 (after that the abs changed the count for our emigration of permanent resdients. No data for state from departing…doh!)[email protected]/DetailsPage/3401.0Jan%202017?OpenDocument

    PERMANENT AND LONG-TERM MOVEMENTS has also been removed from the ABS reporting. Doh!
    May 2016 was the last they reported …[email protected]/Previousproducts/3401.0Main%20Features2May%202016?opendocument&tabname=Summary&prodno=3401.0&issue=May%202016&num=&view=

    “There were 7,630 Australian residents who stated their intention was to depart permanently from Australia during March 2016, an increase of 2.7% compared with March 2015 (7,430 movements). However, analysis shows that the majority of those with an intention of permanently departing, return to Australia within the following year. For example, in the calendar year 2011, out of the 84,240 Australian residents who stated they were departing permanently, only 15,890 spent 12 months or more overseas.”

    Permanent Departures – Emigration of our young and brightest
    1976 26740
    1984 22330
    1996 28500
    2006 69400
    2016 96250

    Emigration 1976 to 2016

    Must admit, NSW Planning seemed to predict quite accurately in 2014, so no reason to assume their forward projections are wrong. They highlight the NOM 12/16 rule change and the effect it had on the NOM after that in Figure 1.

  10. FiftiesFibroShack

    Net population growth in Sydney would be brutal if people stayed put. Plenty around my area have taken the money and run. I think about it every now and then.

    I guess the property council types would consider this a market solution to population distribution.

  11. I think the exodus will continue – not only to Brisbane but also to satellite cities like Newcastle, Geelong, Sunshine coast, etc. When asked on Q&A about a fast train from Sydney to Newcastle, John Daley said that you can’t create jobs in Newcastle, and we should instead concentrate on building up the Sydney metro area. Hello? You think you can create jobs in places like Rouse Hill and Badgerys Creek, but not in Newcastle? Is there something magical about the Hawkesbury River that we are not allowed to cross it?

  12. Too late, the horse has well and truly bolted. Not that there is still not a good economic case for reducing immigration even now. What is it with politicians that they can’t see the obvious until it is too late. I wonder what the real agenda is behind mass immigration?

    • john6007MEMBER

      “I wonder what the real agenda is behind mass immigration?”
      This is the critical question. I think the answer may just be greed and self interest.

    • Nothing complex. It makes headline GDP look good and it suits the existing elite, especially big business.

  13. “drain brain”

    Sorry, I have to say this: it’s “brain drain”, not the other way round. Sounds more coherent this way too.

  14. We’re off to Melbourne from Sydney for work. We are both very happy to leave but is it even much better?

    • Gavin is exactly right – for a while you’ll be marginally better off.
      And in a few years time you’ll have the same problem. Plus the shittiest weather outside Wellington.
      Better plan long term.

  15. The issue is that Sydney is being crushed by record immigration – mostly from countries with a poor environment, overcrowding, and poor infrastructure. This means that Sydney still looks good and immigrants continue to pour in.

    If you are drowning in the ocean and a life raft is nearby, you tend not to notice the small leak in the life raft and that it is looking a bit crowded. All you want to do is climb in as its better than the alternative.

    Locals with a longer view of Sydney’s trajectory have had enough and are leaving.

    • #movetoTAS, or #movetoNT, or #movetoQLD

      Why does it have to be SA? We’re full already 😀 In all seriousness though, the block sizes on new detached builds are getting tiny in SA.

      • Create your own job. It’s much easier to innovate / startup a business when you aren’t paying exorbitant prices for housing.

        The reality is though that Adelaide has jobs for all but the most specialised roles. The 10-20% of people employed in positions that might find their careers limited in Adelaide can probably afford a property in the city they are living in.

  16. Ross Gittins speaking at 6pm tonight. Newcastle Institute forum. Souths Leagues Club Merewether. Topics: Rent-seeking, the ‘game of mates’, and the stuff-ups of economic reform