Dusty outback towns are now home to the nation’s biggest pay packets, outstripping ritzy waterfront suburbs in capital cities.
Analysis of the most recent census data shows the resources boom has driven a dramatic reshaping of the wealth map, with six out of the top 10 biggest income-earning local government areas found in remote Western Australia and Queensland. The size of pay cheques for workers in isolated mining communities have also skyrocketed, in some cases up to 50 per cent over just five years.
But remote communities aren’t the only ones doing well – households in large regional cities throughout New South Wales and South Australia have smashed the $1000 a week income barrier for the first time. The same cannot be said for regional Victoria and Tasmania, where the median household income is still below $1000 a week.
Median refers to the halfway point, meaning half the population earns less than that amount and the other half earns more.
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The shire of Roebourne, a 16-hour drive north of Perth, is home to the nation’s highest income earners. Dubbed "the powerhouse of the Pilbara", half the shire’s residents pocketed more than $2809 a week last year. In contrast, the bankers, business executives and celebrities who live in the exclusive eastern Sydney suburbs that comprise Woollahra Council earned $2398 a week.
In 2006, exclusive waterfront suburbs of Sydney and Perth made up half the top 20 income-earning council areas. The richest was the Perth suburb of Peppermint Grove, which is packed with some of the nation’s most luxurious mansions.
But five years later, Peppermint Grove has been relegated to fifth on the list, toppled by the might of the three local government areas in the Pilbara region of Western Australia and Roxy Downs in South Australia.
Of the eight local government areas in Australia where residents earned a medium weekly income of $2500 or more, seven were in mining areas.
Workers in the Pilbara were last year paid up to $950 a week more than they were in 2006. The extraordinary increase is another reminder of how resource companies have paid big-dollars to lure workers west.
The 2011 Census data, compiled by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and analysed by Fairfax Regional Media, has also provided a unique "health check" on the economic performance of other regional communities. The results over the last four years show residents in some provincial cities have enjoyed income growth larger than those in many traditionally wealthy Sydney and Melbourne suburbs.
Of the large NSW cities, Newcastle households enjoyed the biggest increase to their weekly incomes, jumping 31 per cent to $1165. Councils surrounding Maitland and Orange also experienced big jumps.
The worst performers included Albury and Dubbo, where incomes struggled to grow above 12 per cent.
In Victoria, the median income for Bendigo households hit $991 last year, a 19 per cent increase compared to four years earlier. The City of Ballarat local government area grew by 18 per cent, while a similar rise helped Warrnambool exceed the $1000 a week income barrier for the first time.
Whyalla in South Australia notched up a considerable 24 per cent income increase, while Devonport in Tasmania outperformed its nearby neighbours Launceston and Burnie. However, weekly pay cheques there are up to $300 less than similar-sized cities on the mainland.