A city to tempt a true tree change

RIGHT DECISION: Tree changers Fiona Schofield, Lisa Parianos, Sarah Robinson and Wayne Harris chat with mayor John Davis after yesterday’s Evocities launch. Photo: JUDE KEOGH
RIGHT DECISION: Tree changers Fiona Schofield, Lisa Parianos, Sarah Robinson and Wayne Harris chat with mayor John Davis after yesterday’s Evocities launch. Photo: JUDE KEOGH

ORANGE is better-placed than six other major regional cities to do best out of a million-dollar bid to lure Sydneysiders west of the mountains, say those who’ve already made the move.

Its close proximity to Sydney, trendy food and wine scene, four distinct seasons and employment opportunities give Orange an advantage over Albury, Armidale, Bathurst, Dubbo, Tamworth and Wagga Wagga, the seven cities features in the Evocities campaign.

Evocities is designed to convince hundreds of Sydneysiders to consider a tree change.

It was launched in Orange yesterday after an initial promotion in Sydney earlier this week.

It is hoped it will attract people like Sarah Robinson and husband Patrick, who moved to Orange in January 2009.

“We were living quite close to the city and loving where we were living but were really getting sick of the traffic, the congestion and the fact we couldn’t afford to buy our shoebox of an apartment,” Mrs Robinson said yesterday.

She admitted some would shudder at the idea of giving up a coastal lifestyle.

“Of course Orange can’t compete with the beach,” she said.

“But we were living near the water and would have been lucky to find the time to go the beach once every three or four months.”

One of the key features of the campaign is promoting the affordability of the country compared to the city.

It’s entirely possible it would cost the same in petrol to drive from Orange to Sydney as it would in parking fees for a day at Bondi Beach.

Lisa Parianos and husband Bill moved to Orange three years ago.

Their influence was quickly felt after the couple opened the cosmopolitan Bill’s Beans coffee shop in East Orange.

“Some of our friends are envious of our decision to move, but some won’t give up Sydney even if they can see the benefits of moving out here,” Mrs Parianos said.

“Orange has a great food and wine culture, you don’t feel like you’re missing so much about Sydney as far as that’s concerned.

“We were also embraced very quickly when we arrived and that makes a big difference.”

An independent online survey canvassed 1000 Sydney residents and 400 Evocity residents, with a focus on the differences in the cost of living between Sydney and regional cities.

It found one in four Sydneysiders like Mrs Robinson and Mrs Parianos would consider a tree change.

Orange mayor John Davis is confident the campaign will work.

“People would give their left arm to come out here once they’ve actually been here and seen what we’re all about,” he said.

“This has been five years in the making and I’ve been gobsmacked by its response in the last few days, it’s just gone crazy.

“It’s perfect timing because after the result of the federal election, everyone’s talking about rural and regional Australia.”

Member for Orange Russell Turner, himself a tree-changer, hoped those behind the Evocities campaign recognised they needed to break down perceptions about about life outside Sydney.

“Some people think the only thing west of the mountains is dust, dead sheep and farmers walking off their land,” he said.

Building a decent road to travel between Sydney and Orange was also critical, he said.

“That [the proposed Bells Lines Expressway] is the umbilical cord for growth out here,” Mr Turner said. “Growth is not going to happen until you break down that perception of distance.

“The perception is we’re out near Bourke, not just over the hill, and that highway will break down that perception.”