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The Kempsey Shire is located adjacent to the Pacific Highway and the North Coast railway line, around 430km northeast of Sydney. Kempsey Shire’s heritage begins with the Dunghutti people, a group who shared a common language and who organised themselves into smaller groups regularly living together. Kempsey was settled by Europeans in the 1830s and named by Enoch William Rudder who likened the area to Kempsey in Worcestershire, England. The first settler’s homes were built after the land was surveyed for a private town and they were located in East Kempsey. The initial natural resource attraction to the area was also the red cedar cutting opportunity which collapsed in the 1840s and nearly led to the failure of the town. However, the logging and sawmilling industries continued on, exporting timber to Great Britain and the USA until the 1960s. Dairy production was also a major industry in Kempsey until the 1960s and nowadays, the area is also driven by other industries such as beef cattle production and tourism..
The Shire was settled by European cedar cutters in the 1830s who moved into the area during that time as was common through most of the New South Wales north coast. Bullock and horse teams were the carriers of early times and shipping played a major role in transport. Up until 1893, the entrance to the Macleay River was at Grassy Head and droghers regularly plied the river carrying produce to meet the ocean-going ships which tied up at Kempsey wharf. Settlement in the area was driven by economy and economic prosperity so during the peaks and lows of the cedar and pastoralist production periods, settlement occurred in different towns throughout the Shire. The railway, a key transport trunk, edged north to the town in 1917 although Kempsey, like many towns along the New South Wales coast, was still being served by coastal ferries until 1960. In 1886, the borough of Kempsey was proclaimed. This name remained until the Municipality of Kempsey was established in 1907 with the formation of the Macleay Shire. Today, the local government body is Kempsey Shire Council which embraces the entire Macleay district.
In recent history, migration moves to and from Kempsey Shire have been diverse. The largest population gains to the Shire in the 2006-2011 period have been from Penrith and Blacktown and also from overseas. When broken down by age, it was mainly 35-64 year olds with children and teenagers aged 5-17 years who moved to the Shire from those aforementioned areas. This is likely a movement of families to Kempsey but also at the older end of that age range – empty nesters and early retirees moving in. Largest net migration losses in the 2006-2011 period were to Newcastle (mainly younger adults aged 18-24 years), leaving the area for education and employment opportunities and seeking the bright lights of a bigger city. Younger adults also migrated out of the Shire to South East Queensland (Gold Coast and Brisbane) for similar reasons. Adults aged 55 years and over migrated south to Port Macquarie – Hastings. Daily migration patterns (journey to work) are predominantly where local residents of the Kempsey Shire travel to Port Macquarie-Hastings and Nambucca for work although there are also residents from those two areas who come to the Kempsey Shire for employment.
Note: The migration flows depicted above are historical and do not represent future or forecast migration flows or subsequent council boundary changes. The arrows represent migration flows to the area as a whole and do not indicate an origin or destination for any specific localities within the area. Overseas flow shows overseas arrivals based on answers to the census question "where did the person usually live 5-years ago" and .id estimates of international out-migration.
The housing roles and functions of different small areas in the Kempsey Shire vary. As an area made up of both larger and smaller townships along with rural areas – the different parts of the Kempsey Shire have different housing dynamics and have developed different roles within the housing market. Normally, the historic role and function of an established place dictates the kind of residential development which will occur in that area and this in turn affects the role and function of a place further in what is a positive feedback system of sorts. Overall, the age-specific net migration in the Shire has been relatively consistent in the past 25 years. There is a loss of young adults aged 18-24 years who leave the Kempsey Shire in search of education and employment opportunities elsewhere. This is somewhat countered by a gain of younger couples with and without children aged 25-29 years who migrate to the Shire from areas such as Lake Macquarie-Hastings and Greater Taree in search of more attractive housing opportunities and perhaps closer proximity to places of employment. The Shire also gains young and established families, made up of adults aged 30-34 years with children aged 0-9 years who migrate to the Kempsey Shire. A notable and consistent net gain of mature adults, empty nesters and early retirees aged 50-69 has also been seen in the area and will continue into the future. This age cohort is made up of older adults who may sell their house in other parts of Greater Sydney and regional New South Wales or South East Queensland and move to the Kempsey Shire for the coastal lifestyle, larger blocks of land if they prefer. This "sea-change" trend is visible in other similar parts of the Mid-North Coast, such as Port Macquarie-Hastings, who also gain a population aged 55-64 years for similar reasons. There is little change in older age groups aged 70+ years, this segment of the population either remains in place or as they become frail move to aged care facilities in the area or to Port Macquarie-Hastings.
Within the Shire, there are examples of different migration flows than the overall LGA trend described above. In East Kempsey and West Kempsey-Greenhill, there is a slight gain of young adults aged 20-24 years and older adults aged 35-39 years (as parents in families) with children aged 0-4 years. South West Rocks – Jerseyville experiences a large net gain of older adults (aged 45-65 years) who make up the sea change migratory inflow which will continue in the future.
The predominant household type in the Shire (in 2011) was "Couples without children". While this household type does also represent younger couples who are at the life stage of living together before starting a family – a large segment of this predominant household type in the Shire is actually older adults ("empty nesters") who live together as a couple with the children having left home to start households of their own. Lone person households are also common. In 2011, 28% of all residents lived in lone person households and this is expected to increase slightly into the future. Again, the main driver behind this household type being common in the Shire is the ageing of residents over time. Couples without children and one parent families make up the other main household types in the Shire.
There are also significant differences in the supply of residential property within the LGA which will also have a major influence in structuring different population and household futures within the Kempsey Shire over the short, medium and long term. Historically (looking back to 1991-2011), South West Rocks – Jerseyville carried a large share of new housing development. Although the rates of development have been slowing down since 2006, this is expected to change in the medium term and for the Shire to return to rates of development similar to that of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Several developments, such as "Seascape Grove" and "Sea Change Estate" and "Mango Tree Estate" are in progress now, with the recent commencement of larger development sites such as "Saltwater - South West Rocks" expected to increase rates of development in the short and medium term while commencements of other larger developments such as "The Coast South West Rocks" from the late 2010s adding to the area’s housing stock while also providing for a medium density housing stock market too. "Seascape East" and "Settler’s Ridge" developments will also provide new housing stock to the area in the future. Elsewhere, "Glenrock Estate" is well underway in West Kempsey-Greenhill and along with some currently active short term strategic land release areas such as the "Belmore Street New Release Area" will provide new housing in West Kempsey – Greenhill. The "Warratah Drive/Wattle Place/Jack Richardson Drive" development in Aldavilla – Euroka – Yarravel is currently underway and will continue to provide new dwellings to the area to the mid 2020s. The "Baker Drive West" strategic land release in Crescent Head – Kundabung will commence in the early/mid 2020s whereas the "Macleay Valley Way New Release Area" will provide for new housing in Frederickton and District.
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