CITY BUYERS MOVING INTO PROPERTY MARKET
By JAMIE BROWN
DENISE and Norm Olsen are part of a new wave of 'scene-changers' who found their bit of paradise just 10 minutes from Lismore.
And they are not alone. Lennox Head-based developer Chris Condon is putting his money on the northern slopes of the red soil ridge between Alstonville and Goonellabah as the location for the next big property boom.
There are several factors at play, with the latest, revealed yesterday, saying excessive property prices in the cities are forcing home buyers into regional areas like the Northern Rivers.
The Housing Industry Association says new figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show the population in regional areas is growing faster than most major cities.
Other factors include easier access from south-east Queensland, thanks to the upgraded Pacific Highway, and the ever-green lure of our moderate climate.
In January NSW Planning Minister Frank Sartor released the Government's planning strategies for coastal areas from Evans Head to the Queensland border.
If all goes to plan, a future increase of 60,400 people in our region will be focused on inland centres, like Lismore.
For the Olsens, Lismore is a hidden delight.
They moved from Sydney twoand-a-half years ago, keen to escape the increasing traffic and congestion of the capital city.
They searched from Yamba to the Sunshine Coast, before settling at Richmond Hill.
Their modern home, off Whispering Valley Drive, faces north with abundant winter sunshine and plenty of cooling seabreezes.
"Yamba was too quiet, while the Tweed and Sunshine Coast were just too busy, and nothing in Ballina excited me as much as this place," said Denise, who admits her love of rural views.
Denise and Norm have many friends locally. A number are fellow scene-changers who moved north from Sydney to escape the rat-race, and settled in the Goonellabah area.
As a result of these new residents our area is now feeling the impact of predicted change.
Developer Chris Condon sees increasing demand for property east of the Pacific Highway, along the coast, pushing up prices over the next two to three years.
As a result, he sees good opportunities for development from West Ballina to Goonellabah, with Wollongbar becoming the Alstonville Plateau's third village.
"Prices will force people west," he says.
Mr Condon has bought 148 hectares near Casino, but is not planning to develop it just yet.
Ballina estate agent Graeme Hellyar, of Ray White, says there is activity in Casino and Kyogle, with mainly local investment.
Fellow Ballina estate agent Peter Carmont said the typical sea-changer of a few years ago tended to come from the south, whereas more buyers were now moving down from the north.
He said that while Sydney experienced a property slump of up to 10 per cent in 2005, Ballina recorded positive growth of 3 per cent. Last year that figure climbed to 5.8 per cent.