Information about work, life and play in Regional Australia

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Country Week Outcomes - Need for persistence

Photo: Armidale Country Week team debrief. From left to right Harold Ritch - Jobs Australia, Pip Warrick - The Armidale School, Stuart George - Petersons Winery, Kevin Abey - Armidale Dumaresq Council, Stuart Allardice - Armidale Dumaresq Council, Joan Dunn - Jobs Australia, Marina Schiender - University of New England, Keren Brown - New England Girls School and Peter Georkis - Hutchinson and Harlow.

I had been going to continue my posts on understanding the regional alternative with a look at Wagga Wagga, but in preparing another story I found some material relevant to an earlier story.

In my post of 12 August I reported on my attendance at Country Week 06, a high intensity promotion intended to sell the virtues of life in regional NSW to Sydney audiences.

I complained in that post about the decision of the Queensland Government to run a rival expo at the same time, together with the refusal of certain NSW regional cities to participate this year.

I am pleased to report that Country Week appears to have been a considerable success for at least some centres.

The NSW regional city of Armidale has run a major coordinated stand at each of the three Country Weeks held so far. At the team debrief (photo) held soon after Country Week, team members reported:

  • Jobs Australia reported a keen interest from people in trades, including plumbers, gas fitters, carpenters and truck drivers. Stuart George from Petersons Armidale Winery (see story on Petersons Armidale on the New England, Australia blog) had been approached by a chef seeking to relocate.
  • The Armidale School, Presbyterian Ladies College and New England Girls school had received applications from prospective teachers (The Armidale School had recruited a teacher at the previous Country Week) as well as applications for enrollment. The University of New England had received a number of enquiries from prospective students at all levels as well as enquiries for general and academic staff positions.
  • The Council had already received a visit from one couple wishing to establish a business in Armidale and were following up two others. Hutchinson and Harlow were working on five firm enquiries for houses and were following up 138 people who had expressed interest in relocation.
Council's Marketing and Tourism Manager Stuart Allardice commented: "It might be third time lucky but we really broke through the barrier this year".

I think that this really is a key point, the city has been organised and persistent. In this context, team members reported that most people who called at the Armidale Dumaresq stand this year knew about the city and were making specific enquiries. Many were young professionals with families and a large number came from the Hills district in Sydney. IT professionals, lawyers, teachers, accountants, doctors and nurses all visited the stand to make enquiries.

"I think we've exploded the myth that people have to leave their city lifestyle behind when they come to Armidale," said Economic Development Officer, Kevin Abey. "Most I spoke to have the financial resources to move and a lot of them told me their motive was to buy back their travelling time and spend it with their kids."

According to Hutchinson and Harlowe's Peter Georkis: "Ninety nine percent of the people we spoke to want to move out of Sydney. They find Armidale attractive because we have a university, people from 63 different nationalities, a youthful demographic, a food and wine culture, good schools and so many sporting and cultural activities."

Exhibiting for the first time, the Australian Capital Territory was also satisfied with the initial outcomes.

According to Chief Minister Jon Stanhope, 200 people, mostly young couples with children, had expressed strong interest in moving to Canberra. Mr Stanhope believed that the Live in Canberra team's three-day visit to the Country Week expo in Sydney had been a success.

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