LAND GIVEAWAY

REPORTER: JONATHAN CREEK

Peak hour traffic, frightening house prices and a rental shortage isn't motivation enough for most of us to take up the simple life -- we think about it but never make the move.

Now country towns across Australia are in a battle for you! It's the old populate or perish theory -- more people means more business. So in an effort to survive, local councils are offering opportunities of a lifetime. All you have to do is move to the country. "Avoca is one of the jewels in the crown of the region, it's a lovely place to live, a lovely place to bring up a family, great facilities, great recreation opportunities", said Lester Harris, Mayor of Avoca.

The latest offer is this block of land in the central west Victorian town of Avoca -- Just two hours from Melbourne. Valued at $60,000 it's being raffled and the tickets free.

"It's about getting people into the town, it's about getting people into the region, and providing some available housing", Lester said.

And this is no back block, once considered the prime piece of vacant real estate left in town with a river frontage and close to both the bowls and golf clubs.

"If a free block of land isn't enough to move you, throw in clean country air, a relaxed lifestyle and picturesque surrounds. Still not convinced? Then how about this wild card -- Avoca is situated in the heart of Victoria's wine country.

"It is a great start, even for those who don't happen to win a block of land, our average mortgage is $700 a month and even for those wanting to rent, it's I think, $108 a week average rentals so it's a lot cheaper to live here than some other places", said Angela Hunt, CEO of the Grampians Pyrenees Development Board.

Compare that to Melbourne's average house price of $450,000

Last year, the Pyrenees Shire gave away a business. Town folk thought they were crazy and ironically the competition attracted a psychologist to town.

In Queensland, the country town of Jandowae is booming. It all started in 2001 when the council raffled off thirty five blocks of land.

And in Bruce Rock, Western Australia, free land has been a constant fuel for population growth since 1992. In 2006, with no blocks remaining, the town was declared full.

Town planning expert Bill Kuznichook is all for these types of marketing promotions, but warns they are exactly that and anyone considering a change should do their homework. "You need to know there are job opportunities,

you need to know there might be schooling needs you've got, you need to check whether or not you can actually build on this site, so you need to check the local council for your planning and building regulations and you also need to make sure that servicing and infrastructure to your particular site is available and what the costs are associated with it", Bill said.

The only catch with the block in Avoca is that you have to be at the Royal Melbourne show to collect your ticket and then visit an information centre in the Pyrenees Shire to lodge that ticket. "They're going to have another look anyway, exactly", Angela said.

"The Council's going to win out because they're going to increase the number of people in their community, that's going that have all sorts of multiplier effects for the council in terms of future rate revenue and all the rest of it. On the other hand, the community is winning out, the people who are taking advantage of these things because they've got cheap land or they've got cheap housing so in terms of the whole housing affordibility debate, that's going to be a plus and a win/win for everyone", Bill said.

To find out how to enter the competition to win a block of land in Avoca, go to http://www.grampianspyrenees.com/ or call Tel: 03 5355 0271