25 Nov 2004, 04:13:12 PM

Reporter: Rodney Lohse

Giving away free land to entice people to settle an area dates back many years and now the time has come to o it in the Victorian town of Avoca.

Far from it being a free for all, this is quite literally a raffle.

The rest of the blocks are as cheap as $20,000 with the aim to get city folk from all over Australia, to start thinking about a "tree change", a sea change minus the beach.

Mayor David Clarke said the land giveaway is actually a combined effort by three councils in the Grampian Pyrenees area: Northern Grampian, Ararat Rural Shire and Pyrenees Shire.

"We want anyone who can basically come here and enjoy the area," he said.

Already, without the promise of a free block of land, plenty of city slickers are opting for tall timber over office towers.

Sam and Donna Young both had high paying jobs in Melbourne, Sam in Information Technology and Donna as a Graphic Designer, but while they were well paid they still could not afford to buy a house.

On top of that they had spent half their lives in the car.

Now the commute time to work is 15 seconds, the time it takes to walk to the study in their back room, where Sam runs his IT business and Donna her graphic design business.

"It's just been amazing," the couple said.

"We've got so much room to move now we're on 150 acres of bush with a four bedroom house."

And instead of commuting for two hours a day, now when Sam knocks off he fly fishes in the dam, which he has stocked with trout, right in front of his house.

"We found the city just too frenetic in the end and we decided we wanted to move to the country," he said.

And it is not just the young migrating to the bush.

Van and Ruth Spargo bought an old sheep property about five years ago and are slowly turning it into an olive and lavender farm.

It is the produce they intend to sell in the gift shop they have just opened in town.

"Everyone is so friendly," said Ruth.

And after just a few years, both couples said they will never be going back to the big smoke.

If David Clarke and colleagues have any say in it, more people will be seeing big cities get smaller.

"We're sure if people have a look, they will want to move to this region," he said.

For further information about the raffle, contact Pyrenees Shire on (03) 53 49 2000 or Ararat Rural City on (03) 53 55 0200 and Northern Grampians Shire (03) 5358 8700 or visit the website at