Communities in the Murray-Darling Basin could reap the rewards of post-Covid population

Regional communities and food producers in the Murray-Darling Basin could reap significant benefits in the post-Covid world, a leading demographer told a national water conference today.

In his keynote address at the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s River Reflections conference in Mildura, The Demographics Group co-founder and director Simon Kuestenmacher said regional towns near capital cities are experiencing strong population growth that could well position them as future economic powers.

“An increase in migration will help downtowns in regional hubs, with millennial families being the biggest growth segment,” Kuestenmacher said.

“The general trend in the basin is for more rural and remote populations to decline, while some of the larger regional centers will continue to attract more people moving from both big cities and small towns.”

Mr. Kuestenmacher highlighted stressors shared by communities in the basin that could act as barriers to potential growth.

Overall, house prices have risen sharply. Just in the past 12 months, house prices have gone up as follows:

  • Albury Wodonga +33%
  • Orange +30%
  • Wagga Wagga +24%
  • Double +23%
  • Mildure +14%
  • Bendigo +10%
  • Toowoomba +9%

(Data from

He said high house prices made the skills shortage even more difficult to solve.

“How can businesses in the basin looking to fill low-income jobs attract workers when there is no affordable housing available? Mr. Kuestenmacher asked.

He warned that skills shortages and housing shortages go hand in hand and could hamper economic expansion.

“There are challenges in attracting the right workers to your area,” Kuestenmacher said.

“Housing affordability will need to be addressed from the supply side.

“It is crucial that local governments make enough land available for future residential developments. This must be done quickly and unbureaucratically.

“State governments need to set aside sufficient funds for regional infrastructure upgrades.

“Private sector real estate developers are tasked with rapidly adding housing stock at scale in regional growth poles. This is of course difficult to achieve with the current skills shortage.

“Our workforce is transforming, with more well-paid knowledge workers and more low-wage workers, there are fewer middle-class and middle-income workers.”

Good news for the agricultural sector, Mr Kuestenmacher said he expected world food prices to continue to rise.

“Here, it is possible to earn a lot of money for farmers and food producers, but the cost of imports is rising sharply.

“As the cost of doing business is only going up, companies shouldn’t just try to tighten their belts and hope that costs come down.

“The goal is to invest in quality assets and materials that will enable companies to extend replacement and renovation cycles.

Mr. Kuestenmacher said another interesting demographic trend was that many regional centers lacked young people in their twenties and thirties.

“Young people leave regional towns to study in Australia’s big cities and only return to their hometowns when they have school-aged children and want to replicate their own childhoods for their children,” he said. -he declares.

“The pandemic and the ability for many workers to work remotely is allowing young families to act like retirees in the housing market.

“What I mean by that is that they can choose where to live based on lifestyle factors rather than near downtown employment hubs.

“Basin communities want to actively engage millennial families. Be strong and proud of your area, explain to potential new residents what life will be like.

“Working together as a whole community to ensure new housing offers come online. Speak with one voice to the state government to attract infrastructure spending to your area.

The annual River reflections water conference takes place in Mildura, Victoria on Wednesday June 1 and Thursday June 2, 2022.

The reflections of the river provide space and time for the diverse communities and industries of the Murray-Darling Basin to come together. This is an opportunity to share water management innovations, knowledge and lessons learned while celebrating achievements.

Speaker Background

Simon Kuestenmacher

Keynote speaker

Director and Co-Founder, The Demographics Group, Melbourne, Victoria

Simon holds degrees in geography from leading universities in Berlin and Melbourne and worked for several years as a business consultant with KPMG Australia. In 2017 Simon, with Bernard Salt, co-founded The Demography Group. The group provides expert advice on demographic, consumer and social trends for businesses.

Simon has presented to numerous business and industry audiences across Australia and internationally on demographic trends, consumer insights and cultural change in Australia. His original presentations and insights are valued by groups in the financial services, real estate, government, education, technology, retail, and professional services industries, among others.

Simon is also a columnist for The Australian and The new daily newspapers; a media commentator on demographics and data issues.

In his spare time, Simon runs what is now the world’s largest Twitter account dedicated to maps and data. He has amassed 300,000 followers globally, reaches over 25 million people monthly, and ranks among the top 10 global data visualization influencers. If you don’t already follow Simon on Twitter, you can find him @SimonGerman600.

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