Information about work, life and play in Regional Australia

Monday, December 04, 2006

Tree Change - Deciding where do you want to live

Waiting for the Judge. Another great photo by Gordon Smith because I like it.

This post continues to story of Katrina and Tom's search for an alternative life in Regional Australia. I have listed all the previous posts at the end of this post so that those who are interested can follow the story through.

Our focus in this post shifts to ways of analysing and ranking different localities, starting from the premise that you have followed previous advice and therefore have a pretty fair idea as to your needs.

Drawing up a Table

On good technique is to start with a table. Down the left hand side put your needs as you have defined them. Then along the top put the names of the areas that you are considering. This then allows you compare the varying advantages and disadvantages of different localities by inserting comments in each box.

Time and Distance

City people are used to thinking in terms of travel time rather than distance. For some reason when they look at the regional alternative, many switch to thinking in terms of distance. This is plain dumb.

Ten minutes in the city is the same as ten minutes in regional Australia. Ten kilometres or miles is not the same because it just takes so much longer to travel the distance in the city. So its very important to compare like with like.

In an earlier post, Sydney or the Bush - a few numbers, I attempted to compare a Sydney life style with an exactly equivalent regional one.

I followed this up with a post, Understanding the Regional Alternative -Comparing Like with Like, in which I looked at the normal patterns of metro life, suggesting that people thought of this in terms of a series of circles whose size was determined by travel time. My message was that you should apply the same approach in considering the regional alternative.

In Getting the Best out of Regional Living - Wagga Wagga case study, I took a major regional city and looked at just what was offered by the broader region around the city, comparing this with the things available to Sydney people, taking travel time into account.

Drawing from all this, I suggest that you draw three circles on the map around each locality under consideration:

  • Circle one represents, say, 10-15 minutes driving time one way. This represents the normal city travel time for the day-to-day circle round home. Work travel time may be much longer. In regional areas most activities will be well within the circle. But there are advantages in adopting a broader approach.
  • Circle two equates to around 60-80 minutes driving time one way. This is the maximum radius for things like city sporting activities, although most things - a special dinner for example - will be within a 30 minute radius.
  • Circle three equates to 2-3 hours driving time. This is the maximum normal driving time that a city person will do for, say, a weekend away. Two hours driving is about the normal limit, 3 hours for something special.

You can then look at what is in each circle.

The advantage of this type of approach is that it provides a comparative structure for analysing total opportunities in any area.

Circle One: the 10-15 minute Circle

This is the day to day circle, so it is very important to understand just what lies within it. Here you need to look at:

Structure of the town: You need to get a feel for how the town fits together, the distances between things, the structure of life in the town. The local newspaper is usually a good source of information. Most now have an on-line presence, but to really get a feel you need a subscription. Beyond that, the only way to get a final feel is by visiting and then talking to people.

Housing: Most local real estate agents now have a web presence. Don't get caught by a heaven sale, buying at inflated prices. Take the time to really get to understand your options.

Education: Identify all the local schools in order to determine your options. Most schools have web sites that can give you some initial information. You can also get local feedback by talking to people. Beyond that, you have to visit. Depending upon your needs, you may want to check access to TAFE and University facilities. In smaller centres, you may need to consider studying externally or factor some travel in.

Health: Again, you need to check local health facilities. Where there is a local gap, you may need to check nearest availability and then look at travel times. These may or may not be greater than the metro equivalent.

Community, professional and recreational: Most professional bodies have specific support programs for regional areas and can provide advice here. Local professionals are usually happy to talk. Most councils maintain community directories that list local organisations. Most communities, too, have chambers of commerce that can act as a source of advice on business issues.

Supporting Infrastructure: In an earlier post, Getting the Best out of Regional Living - Using the On-line World, I looked at the impact of modern communications. This is an example of another thing you need to look at, supporting infrastructure. This includes:

  • water and sewerage. Some regional areas, for example, have lots of water and no water restrictions at all, others suffer from periodic water shortages. If one of your reasons for considering a move is to have the type of home garden no longer possible in metro areas, then you need to take rainfall and water supply into account.
  • communications. Availability of broadband may be important, as may access to air, bus or train travel. Air travel is generally more expensive in Regional Australia, so you will want to factor this in.
  • business services. If you are looking to establish a business and require supporting services, you should check local availability. Some services may not exist in the immediate area.

Circle two: the 60 to 8o minute circle

This circle covers all those things that you might want to access on an irregular basis, including life style and recreational opportunities as well as special shopping, educational and business services.

The 60 to 80 minute circle can be especially important if you have chosen for life style reasons to live in a smaller community since this will, be definition, have fewer local services.

The clue here is simply to look at the map to identify possibilities for further investigation.

Circle three: the 2 to 3 hour circle

Although specific services in this broader circle may be important in particular cases, this should be thought of primarily as the play circle within which it is easy to get away. Again, use a map to identify possibilities.

Previous Posts in this Series


Kath Lockett said...

Dear Jim
This article is a very useful and practical one - would you be interested in giving me permission to include it in a book I'm writing?
pleae email me on for more information.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jim
I'm writing an article about 'tree change/sea change' for APN regional newspapers. Do you mind of I quote your 3 circles idea? How would I attribute it? Something like 'Jim Belshaw in his Regional Living Australia blog talks about 3 circles ...etc?
kind regards

Sue Wighton

Jim Belshaw said...

Hi Sue

Feel free. Just add the words regional development consultant before Jim Belshaw. I am keen to see the idea spread because of the way it breaks down perception barriers.