Mon. Aug 8th, 2022

It was 25 years between visits to Agnes Water, a small coastal town tucked away in central Queensland, when long-term Melbourne local David Cox returned during a 2018 tour of Australia.

A week back at the beach, Mr. Cox convinced to trade in two decades of city life and buy a block of land in the coastal town of about 2,000 people.

He was lucky enough to beat the bustle of the town, which now rolled into Agnes Water and the twin town of 1770.

“It was inspiration at one end, but dissatisfaction at the other end,” Cox said.

“Melbourne got too busy and too expensive to live in. It got a little outdated for us.

“Here we have four acres and we’re a few minutes from the beach, so we really have the best of both worlds.”

David in a navy blue shirt is sitting in his yard
David Cox says he had no family or friends in Agnes Water when his family decided to move, but they were sold on the spot.(

ABC Wide Bay: Lucy Loram

)

Cox said friends and family had followed in his footsteps.

“My wife’s sister lives in Melbourne – she’s eager to move here,” he said.

“My sister actually moved from the Gold Coast, and a good friend of mine has also moved up here from Brisbane.

“I have family in Mildura, in northern Victoria, and would also like to come up.

A beach and palm tree scene
Agnes Water, between Bundaberg and Gladstone, is Queensland’s northernmost surf beach.(

ABC Wide Bay: Brad Marsellos

)

Builders can not keep up with demand

John Smith, a builder who owns the local hardware store, said the demand for new homes was unlike anything he had seen in his 55-year career.

“We are building 14 at the moment and I will most likely get a positive inquiry every day that I cannot accommodate,” he said.

“There is a shortage of everything: materials, labor, houses.

John sits with his hands closed along with a cap on surrounded by office paper
John Smith says all builders in 1770 and Agnes Water are concerned about lack of materials and labor. (

ABC Wide Bay: Lucy Loram

)

Smith said population growth was also reflected in the number of new customers in his store.

“Our business here, the actual hardware store, has grown by over 100 percent and [is] increases monthly, ”he said.

“We’ve added four employees here over the last six or seven months, and we really need at least two others.

A view from the air of an estuary with houses dotting bushland.
The city of 1770 on Queensland’s Discovery Coast.(

Delivered: VMR Round Hill

)

Northern migration

Queensland is the most decentralized mainland state in Australia, with only 49 per cent of the population living in Brisbane, the Queensland government reported in 2021.

Local tourism and marketing manager Amber Rodgers says the pristine landscapes have lured outdoor enthusiasts from the bottom south, many of whom choose to stay.

“There has been noticeable growth in the last 12 months, and to be honest it is both in visitor numbers and in residents,” Ms Rodgers said.

“We find that people were often from the Sunshine Coast in the past, and maybe they moved to that part of Queensland when it was a little less busy than it is now.

“Noosa, the entire coastal region of the Sunshine Coast and generally southeastern Queensland.”

Wooden hand rails lie along a sandy path past green grass to reach sand and blue sea water
2016 census data show that Agnes Water and the population of 1770 are under 2,500 people, but locals believe it may have doubled.(

ABC Wide Bay: Lucy Loram

)

Mrs. Rodgers said a travel company from 1770 had its busiest June in nearly 30 years of business, providing rides to more than 2,000 customers in a month.

The owner of a local motel and resort in 1770, Mark Houlst, said short-term visitors quickly turned to half- or permanent residents.

“This year we were probably 8 percent higher than the occupancy rate in September than we were last year, which was a good year anyway, and October seems to be the same,” Houlst said.

“We’re an hour from the southern Great Barrier Reef, we have surf, clear air, clear water – it’s in their backyard and they’re just aware of it.”

Aerial view of Round Hill Creek in 1770
The canal out of Round Hill Creek in 1770.(

Delivered: VMR Round Hill

)

A home among the trees

David Allen ran a busy pub in Melbourne before switching nightlife to an exclusive home among the trees in a gated community past Agnes Water.

“There has definitely been a lot of interest because it is an internationally award-winning environmental property and it has resort facilities everywhere, it is very attractive to a lot of people in the south,” Allen said.

“When I moved in, only eight people lived there permanently. The permanent population is now around 60 or 65.”

David in a blue shirt with glasses leans on the wooden rail of the deck overlooking the native rainforest
David Allen says living close to nature has made him more environmentally conscious. (

ABC Wide Bay: Lucy Loram

)

Allen said new residents must respect the city’s natural wonders.

“As a local, you can complain when everything is full and people are everywhere,” he said.

“Every day kangaroos walk through my yard, lace monitors climb on my trees – we actually live in a literal rainforest.

“We hope [new residents] appreciate what is. “

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