Perth and the Gold Coast will be classified regional cities, not major ones, as they look to cash in on a migration increase expected to drive visitor numbers and deliver an international student boom.
The federal government this week announced it would increase its new regional migration program intake from 23,000 to 25,000 following a strong start to the initiative.
And it will no longer classify Perth and the Gold Coast as major cities in an effort to make them destinations for skilled migrants and international students.
Under the program launched earlier this year, 23,000 places were allotted for migrants who committed to living and working in regional Australia. Those staying and working in those areas for at least three years become eligible for permanent residency.
Immigration Minister David Coleman said 6,000 visas were approved under the scheme in the first three months of this financial year, double the number approved in the previous quarter prior to the initiative’s launch.
“So we have seen a very strong start to the year in encouraging regional migration,” he said. “We will be increasing the allocation for regional places in our immigration scheme for this year, from 23,000 to 25,000.”
The Australian Hotels Association (WA) reacted with delight to Perth’s reclassification as regional city, CEO Bradley Woods describing it as a “common sense move” which will make WA a more attractive destination for international students and help drive up visitor numbers.
“The AHA has long advocated for Perth to have its status as a regional city reinstated. Today’s announcement will provide WA with an important boost in the competitive international education market,” he said.
“The cooperative approach we have seen between the state and commonwealth government on this issue means international students will now be eligible to obtain an additional year in Australia on a post-study work visa.
“International students play an important role in attracting friends and family as visitors, so today’s announcement will deliver several significant benefits for WA’s hotels and hospitality businesses.
“I would like to thank the McGowan Government as well as the Federal Coalition for working together to deliver an outcome that will help boost visitation to WA and ensure the state remains an attractive destination in an increasingly competitive market.”
To support new migrants, outreach officers will be deployed in Perth, the Goldie and other regional centres around the country including Newcastle, Hobart and Wollongong.
Destination Gold Coast CEO Annaliese Battista said the Queensland tourism mecca provided an “unbeatable” and “iconic” Australian experience which resonated strongly with the global market.
“This decision will ensure our tourism economy and community will continue to reap the benefits associated with our regional status, which in turn provides the Gold Coast the ability to further attract opportunities traditionally afforded to larger cities,” she said.
“This includes increasing our ability to entice the best global talent to the region and to grow our tourism economy, especially the education sector.
“The Gold Coast is one of Australia’s best performing regional edutourism markets, with students and their visiting family and friends contributing an estimated $1.7 billion in total economic value to the region.”
Prime minister Scott Morrison argues the scheme will take the population pressure off major capital cities while helping grow strong regional economies.
“These changes will boost the appeal for so many cities and regional centres that are looking to grow their population to support local services like schools and health care, while attracting new workers and students, meaning more jobs and more investment.”
The opposition says the reclassifications mark an embarrassing government back flip, Mr Coleman telling Gold Coast media on October 1 the area would retain its “metropolitan” tag.
The new classifications will come into effect on November 16.