Jean-Christophe Tomasi once had a high-flying career working in five-star hotels but he has traded that for the sun, sand and saltwater of the Gippsland coast.
Mr Tomasi loves the relaxed lifestyle athis new home in beachside Inverloch where he quickly found a job managing a cafe last year.
“Financially, it was nowhere near what I used to earn before,” he says. “But when you balance it all out, it was the right decision.”
Joanne and Jean-Christophe Tomasi on the beach in Inverloch where they have now settled. Credit:Jason South
The South Gippsland and Bass Coast shires are experiencing extraordinary growth as Melburnians seek a sea change after last year’s lockdowns.
Surging house prices on the Mornington Peninsula pushed home buyers further east along the coast, industry observers say, where towns including Inverloch, Korumburra and Wonthaggi are absorbing the growth.
Mr Tomasi was offered a job on the Mornington Peninsula but house prices were too expensive and his family preferred Inverloch.
They moved to Fiji in 2018 where Mr Tomasi was executive chef and food and beverage director at the Sofitel until COVID-19 forced their return to Melbourne in March last year.
They moved to Inverloch where Mr Tomasi’s wife, Joanne, now works for the local council and they haven’t looked back.
“The food in Gippsland is amazing. There’s a lot of places opening everywhere. It’s an amazing place to live,” Mr Tomasi says.
The Tomasi family love their more relaxed lifestyle in Inverloch. Credit:Jason South
Mr Tomasi wants to buy a house in Inverloch but their long-term rental home is five minutes walk from the beach and his work. He now has more time with his two teenage sons who attend school in Phillip Island.
Bass Coast Shire figures show the number of building permits issued for single dwellings rose from 571 in 2019 to 729 last year. The council expects it will reach 800 this year.
The median house price in Inverloch grew almost 9.5 per cent to $681,000 in the year to December 2020.
Bass Coast chief executive Ali Wastie says real estate agents are reporting that properties are selling “sight unseen”.
She says Wonthaggi, near Inverloch, is among the fastest-growing regional townships in Victoria.
“Whilst there has been significant house price growth across Bass Coast and rental availability is an issue, people see more value in Bass Coast for lifestyle reasons,” Ms Wastie says.
Neighbouring South Gippsland runs from Nyora beside Melbourne’s south-east to Wilsons Promontory and inland to the hills of Mirboo North. New planning applications increased by 27 per cent in the year to 2020 in South Gippsland.
Nyora is expected to absorb much of the growth with 334 lots approved for release and expectations that will soon double.
South Gippsland Shire chief executive Kerryn Ellis says the council has invested in childcare centres and family services to entice young families.
She says the pandemic has proved young people can work and study online while living in the regions rather than moving to Melbourne for more options.
“It’s definitely not the case people need to leave South Gippsland when they reach their late teens or early 20s,” Ms Ellis says.
Earlier this year, data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed a net 7445 people left greater Melbourne during the September quarter with more than three in five moving to a regional location.
But whether this is a permanent change or Melbourne will lure people back with superior health, education, entertainment and culinary options is a lingering question.
Real Estate Institute of Victoria president Leah Calnan says the Bass Coast and South Gippsland are now attracting Melburnians who would previously have looked to the Mornington Peninsula.
“Many people living in metropolitan Melbourne who want that lifestyle, they’re certainly attracted to Phillip Island and Inverloch because affordability is still so attractive in those places,” she says.
But she maintains regional living comes with limitations that governments must tackle.
“The let-down across most regional areas is still the public transport infrastructure.”
The Property Council’s Victorian executive director, Danni Hunter, says the move to the regions has challenged urban planners to reconsider how to make city life more appealing.
Andrew Corponi and Brydie Phillips are preparing to move their family to Leongatha. Credit:Chris Hopkins
She says working from home may not suit young employees who want to benefit from sitting beside senior leaders at work.
“For career progression, that can be quite limiting,” she says.
Teacher Brydie Phillips will move back to Leongatha following a two-year stint there from 2013.
Ms Phillips and her paramedic husband, Andrew Corponi, loved their time in Leongatha but moved to Fawkner in 2015 when they had their first child so they could be closer to her parents.
But they have bought a house in Leongatha because they want to embrace an outdoors lifestyle and feel they can manage without as much support from Ms Phillips’ parents.
“I want to take my kids camping every other weekend,” Ms Phillips says.
Mr Corponi says they love Melbourne’s cosmopolitan delights but are ready to leave them behind.
“Instead of going to a cafe, we’ll go to the beach or we’ll go for a walk in Mirboo North,” he says. “We’ll do better things I guess.”
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