The Shire has Sydney’s lowest departure rate

This article was written by Matt Wade, SMH

It’s the part of Sydney where people stay put, often for generations. Sutherland Shire – dubbed “God’s own country” by locals – has the lowest rate of departures of any council area in Sydney. Bureau of Statistics figures reveal that only 4.3 per cent of Shire residents moved out of the area in 2013-14, about half the average departure rate for councils across the city.

The data implies that if you’re born in the Shire, you’re more likely to stay in the Shire than any other part of Sydney.

Alan Steege’s family fits this trend. He moved to Cronulla in the mid-1950s and his two brothers, three sons and 10 grandchildren all still live in the area.

“People tend to stay in the Shire – they are happy to be here,” Mr Steege said. “Some people who don’t live here bag the Shire a bit but maybe that’s because it’s got something special.”

Another Sydney region known for its lifestyle – the Northern Beaches – also had a relatively small outflow of residents along with the Blue Mountains and Penrith. North Sydney had the highest departure rate in the Sydney metropolitan area of 11.6 per cent, followed by Strathfield (11.4 per cent), The City of Sydney and Ashfield (both 11.1 per cent).

Bureau of Statistics demographer Andrew Howe said the distinctive geography of the Sutherland Shire probably contributes to the stability of its population.

“The Shire’s natural boundaries – the Tasman Sea, Georges River, and Royal National Park – are unique for a council area; they seem to be a factor in its very low rate of out-migration,” he said.

The bureau’s data also revealed that many of those who do leave the Shire don’t to go very far. Nearly 40 per cent of those who left that area for other parts of Sydney in 2013-14 settled in one of four adjacent local government areas north of the Georges River.

Just 2 per cent of those leaving the Shire moved to the Northern Beaches. “Very few people move from Sutherland to the Northern Beaches even though they are, in many ways, quite similar areas,” Howe said.

Sutherland Shire Mayor Kent Johns said he was not surprised by the statistics revealing the low departure rate from the area. “It just confirms what I hear from locals; people who move to the Shire tend to stay as do the next generations,” he said. “I am an example having come to the Shire with my four children and have never left.”

Mr Steege, who is a retired property valuer, located his business in the Shire and now two of his sons work locally. “It’s almost like a big provincial country town,” he said. “People tend look after each other.”

Regional internal migration estimates introduced by the Bureau earlier this year provide new insights about population movements in Sydney.  “This new data series gives us a better, more up-to-date, feel for regional migration trends in Australia,” Howe said.

The Parramatta council area stood out for a large number of comings and goings in 2013-14. The biggest outflow, of 4700, was to the Blacktown council area although 3100 moved the other way, from Blacktown to Parramatta. The Parramatta council area has fewer people than Sutherland Shire but double the number of departures in 2013-14.