Warrnambool's population has steadily increased by around 10 per cent in as many years with the city's future likely to be dominated by people aged over 65, a new report reveals.
The report, The Big Movers: Understanding Population Mobility in Regional Australia, released this week looked at Warrnambool's population movements and data between the national Census in 2011 and 2016.
It found Warrnambool's population steadily increased by around 10 per cent in a 10-year period with a large proportion of older people moving to the city exceeding those of similar ages leaving the community.
This was particularly evident for those aged between 35-39, 45-49 and 55-74, the Regional Australia Institute report stated.
It also revealed the city remained a popular destination for new residents, especially from regional Victoria, but Warrnambool experienced both churn and population loss in age groups associated with families.
In the decade from 2009, Warrnambool saw a 50 per cent rise in the over-65 population.
There was also a population increase in those aged between 55 and 64.
Warrnambool City Council growth director Andrew Paton said the increasing ageing population was a "global and national phenomena".
"It is not unique to Warrnambool but I think this city is particularly attractive to the older demographic because of our amenity, our lifestyle and also the support services that are offered around those age groups," he said.
"It is important to emphasise that an ageing population is an opportunity as people want to live longer and better. While it was perhaps historically generalised as being a burden on the community's services, it is in fact an increase in population that is seeing people wanting to spend money in personal services and that is creating a lot of employment opportunities as well."
But when comparing the population between 2008 and 2018, age groups associated with families declined, including those aged between 35 and 49, 15 and 19, and 10 and 14.
The report said the data suggested an opportunity to better understand the reasons families weren't opting to stay in Warrnambool - a statement Mr Paton didn't agree with.
"When you look at the population growth over 10 years, you look at the family ages and we've had some really strong growth of nearly 30 per cent in the 25-29 category, and 10 per cent in those aged 30-34," he said.
"There has been some softening in the younger people (10-19-year-olds), as well as the 35-39 and 40-44 age groups, but I wouldn't say it is a material decline. I would actually say that is a really small softening in those areas.
"Those aged 40-44 dropped just three per cent over 10 years which is a really small percentage per annum."
Mr Paton said the "small decline" was "perhaps suggestive that the age brackets correlating with 40-plus-year-old parents were looking for further career opportunities".
"It also explains in part a drift towards larger areas such as Geelong, Ballarat and Melbourne," he said.
A large number of 20 to 34-year-olds moved to Warrnambool between 2011 and 2016, the report revealed.
But the 20-24 age bracket showed the greatest number of people moving out of the city in that same time period.
"I think the churn of those age groups has always been pretty prevalent here," Mr Paton said.
"We have people wanting to go to the big lights for education or work, but we are also seeing a strong inflow due to the offering of our valuable higher education facilities such as Deakin University and South West TAFE, as well as employment opportunities."
We have people wanting to go to the big lights for education or work, but we are also seeing a strong inflow due to the offering of our valuable higher education facilities.Andrew Paton
Warrnambool housemates Caitlyn Huang, 26, and Felicity Baird, 24, moved to the city in 2017 and 2019 respectively.
The pair met on flatesmates.com and they both work in allied health.
Ms Baird was born in Warrnambool but lived in Melbourne for about 10 years.
A physiotherapist at South West Healthcare, she said she moved back to Warrnambool for work.
"I love the lifestyle and the beach," she said.
"The Great Ocean Road is nearby, there's surprisingly a lot of young people here and I love the local footy and netball."
Ms Baird said she originally anticipated she'd live here for about one year.
"I'm still here, I think it keeps you in," she said.
"I'll probably move back to Melbourne, mainly because it's closer to my family and friends. I'd consider Geelong, too."
Ms Huang moved from Adelaide to Warrnambool where she commenced work at South West Healthcare as a dentist.
"I moved for the experience," she said.
"(Dentists) always say move rural and go public to start. There's more to do in the country. In the city you refer more people onto someone else.'
Ms Huang is now employed at Barlow Dental Group.
She said she loved the Warrnambool community, the "good work-life balance" and the four-minute commute to her job.
"There's also a lot of cool people, nice walks and bike trails, as well as cute little shops and markets," she said.
The Big Mover report showed hundreds of people moved to Warrnambool from Ballarat, the Southern Grampians and South Australia.
Melbourne came in as the ninth most popular destination people moved from, and fifth for those who left Warrnambool for a city-lifestyle.
But the largest "feeder" local government area was neighbouring Moyne Shire with nearly a quarter of people who arrived in Warrnambool moving from that area.
The next largest feeders were Corangamite and Greater Geelong shires.
And for those who left Warrnambool, the majority went to Moyne Shire, followed by Geelong and Ballarat.
Mr Paton said the data reinforced "that sponge-city effect that regional centres have".
"People in smaller towns are moving to larger regional centres because of the services being offered but I also think there's something about the interdependence between Warrnambool and Moyne," he said.
"The economics of a place ungoverned by a municipal boundary is evident and there is a strong interdependency between the two. Twenty per cent of our work force in Warrnambool are from people who live in Moyne and that is a reflection of the positive synergy between the two municipalities."
Mr Paton said Warrnambool was "really well positioned" in terms of its economic growth.
"One of the attractors of coming to Warrnambool is the housing prices that, relative to Metropolitan prices, are affordable," he said.
"We've got adequate land supply to accommodate 20 years of growth and with Commonwealth initiatives around housing stimulus, there is strong, strong growth around that."
Moyne Shire mayor Daniel Meade said the trend of people moving between Moyne and Warrnambool built on "anecdotal knowledge about the strength of our region".
"And that for most it is about where you need to live to access the services you need to support your lifestyle, your family and changes as we go through different stages of life," he said.
"Moyne Shire has so much to offer those people looking to relocate out of Warrnambool. Our major towns; Port Fairy, once voted the world's most liveable town, Koroit which is seeing increased growth both in business and residential options, and Mortlake, an agricultural and renewable energy hub.
"We also have many smaller towns with welcoming communities, great resources for young people and families, all surrounded by terrific farming areas for those looking to move onto the land.
"Through our economic development strategy, council is focusing on attracting people to our shire, knowing that employment and lifestyle opportunities are key.
"Ensuring we have available house and land supply options are one initiative we are working on, being part of the Great South Coast Designated Area Migration Agreement and working with Great South Coast Leadership Group on economic migration opportunities."
The next Census will be in August 2021.
Australian Bureau of Statistics data released on March 25 this year showed Warrnambool had a population change of more than 300 people over the 2018/19 financial year.
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