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Go west, life is peaceful there

Have you been longing to escape the rat race? Maybe it is time for a city change, writes Annie May.

There is a lot to be said about living and working in a capital city. There is always something to do, whether your interests lie in sport, music, art, theatre or shopping. And when it comes to earning a living, for many people a big city holds more job prospects than one in a regional area.

But then again, with a big city can come some big costs. There is rent, which can be significantly higher than in regional areas, and general living expenses. There is also the cost of time – a two-hour return commute to work and back is not unusual.

Imagine instead the luxury of living five minutes drive from work? Being able to pop home for lunch?

And regional areas also have, while maybe not as varied and consistent as Sydney or Melbourne, sporting, music and art events. Some even have better than decent shopping.

Making the move to a regional area doesn’t sound like such a bad idea when you look at it that way.

It is that way in thinking that Evocities, an alliance marketing seven NSW Central West towns, is banking on.

The seven Evocities are Albury, Armidale, Bathurst, Dubbo, Orange, Tamworth and Wagga Wagga.

According to its marketing, the Evocity name was coined because the cities are “centres of energy, vision and opportunity”. The main objective of the campaign is to encourage capital city residents to make the move to an Evocity and invest in the opportunities the cities have to offer. Moving to an Evocity is “not a sea change, not a tree change but a city change”, spruiks the campaign.

“We know that people understand the lifestyle benefits on offer in an Evocity; less traffic, a diverse lifestyle, affordable real estate and a welcoming community, but there is often a misconception that job opportunities and career advancement are only possible in Australia’s capital cities,” says a spokesperson for the campaign.

“The Evocities are demonstrating that there are a wealth of career opportunities available in their cities – the EvoJobs website itself currently has over 230 jobs listed.”

Of those jobs listed, 58 were in the health and medical field.

The campaign is not “anti-capital cities”, said minster for regional Australia, Simon Crean, at the Evocities launch earlier this year.

“There’s nothing wrong with Sydney, but people are looking for alternatives. I mean the house prices for one are extraordinarily high. The time it takes to get to work is, in some cases, very excessive for people who’ve got no choice.”

In fact, they have seven choices, just in this project alone. “But once you get people in the mindset of looking for realistic alternatives because it provides the spread of offers, then I think all sorts of options open up,” says Crean.

A survey commissioned for the campaign – which canvassed 1000 Sydney residents and 400 Evocity residents - found that nearly a quarter of all Sydney residents have considered a move to one of the seven Evocities.

It found moving to a regional city, as opposed to “the country” would provide an easier pathway for people looking to relocate from a metropolitan environment.

The most appealing areas that would be considered for relocation were coastal NSW (31 per cent) and inland NSW (24 per cent).

The main conditions required to change in order for participants to consider relocation were employment [29 per cent], financial incentives [11 per cent] and facilities in the area [9 per cent].

For the residents, lifestyle was the number one benefit of living in a regional city. Other benefits were more time with family and friends, cost of living and access to the outdoors.

The survey also found 74 per cent of Evocity residents were homeowners, compared to 62 per cent of Sydneysiders.

Since its launch, the Evocities website has received 30,000 hits, with the enquiries evenly spread between the centres.

“At the moment each of the cities is each dealing with around 150 to 200 specific email enquiries from individuals who want information about employment, schooling, housing and lifestyle generally, “ says Stephen Sykes, Evocities chairman, and mayor of Orange.

He says that Evocity campaign would help to address skill shortages and support the continued prosperity of the city and the region.

“The new Orange Base Hospital is just one example of the important role Evocities will play. Everyone in Orange will agree a new hospital is a great addition to the city,” he says.

“But as the health service expands, including radiotherapy, we need to ensure we can attract the skill sets for new services. We already have some highly skilled medical personnel but there is a need for more.” he says.

Go to www.evocities.com.au

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