Evocities is the saviour of regional Australia! It might seem like an extraordinary statement but I firmly believe that Evocities – and other programs that perform similar roles in other States – are required to see long-term growth in regional areas.

Those of us intelligent enough to live in a regional city know that the simple facts show that there is no compelling reason to live in a major metropolitan area – like Sydney. Look at the raw data: The median house price in Sydney is over $1 million; the average weekly time spent commuting across our state capitals is over five hours; the population density in the capitals is 310 people per square kilometre; if you live in a state capital the pollution alone will reduce your life expectancy by 72 days and the list goes on.

When a reasonable and rational person looks at the data, you have to ask why anyone would want to live in a capital city.

The only vaguely logical reason I can come up with is…ignorance. If people in Sydney knew that they could move to an Evocity and decrease their financial stress; decrease their commute time; increase their life expectancy and enjoy a more relaxed lifestyle, they would be moving to regional areas in droves. I therefore can only put the fact that they aren’t down to one reason. Complete and utter ignorance. Total ignorance that there is a better lifestyle awaiting them just outside the Sydney basin.

That is where Evocities comes in.

Evocities was officially launched on 22 September 2010. It was launched purely and simply as a marketing program to educate people in Sydney as to the benefits of regional living. With an extremely limited marketing budget, it has achieved a lot – but there is a lot more work to be done. There are over 4.8 million people living in Sydney at the moment and marketing any brand in the Sydney market is extremely expensive. So far the campaign has touched a very small percentage of that population but the results have been very positive. The challenge now is to keep the marketing campaign going.

A few weeks ago the seven Mayors of Evocities made the most significant change in the short history of the program to the makeup of the committee charged with the responsibility of converting dollars to relocators.

When the program was launched, the job of the seven Councils was to vote for money to be directed to Evocities ($60,000 per Council per year) and the job of the Steering Committee was to make decisions on the most appropriate expenditure of that money to gain the best result. That has served us well for the last four years but it would be fair to say that perhaps the steering committee was taking us in a slightly different direction compared to where the Councillors may have wanted us to go.

Rather than throw the baby out with the bathwater, the seven Mayors of the Evocities made a decision to influence the direction of Evocities by installing one of the seven Mayors as the Evocities Steering Committee Chair.

For all my passion for Evocities, I was rewarded with the role as the inaugural mayoral chair. Our first meeting was held this week and I was incredibly impressed with the talent sitting around the table with the Steering Committee members – made up of representatives from each Council.

With a current funding application in with the Minister for Regional Development, the Hon. John Barilaro MP, I am confident the State Government will match the Councils dollar for dollar and, with the potential for additional corporate sponsorship, I see that it won’t be long before Evocities has an annual marketing budget of $1 million. In the Sydney market I don’t think this is a huge amount of money but I certainly feel as though we will be able to educate a significantly higher proportion of the population.

It is a simple example of the landscape changing in a relatively short space of time and Councils needing to be responsive and adaptable to change – or be left behind.

Keep an eye on this space but don’t expect to see ads for Evocities around our region. We assume that people living in regional areas have already worked it out – the people that need the information are those sitting in traffic late at night on their way home from work to their million dollar one bedroom unit that is beside a train line. Once we increase the coverage of our message, stand back for population explosion in our regional cities – and the surrounding towns.

Tell me if you think Evocities is a good concept at mayor@dubbo.nsw.gov.au

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