Situated right on top of one of South Australia’s major crossroads, Port Augusta’s location is one of the major driving forces that underpin its property market. It’s location at the top of the Spencer Gulf allows its residents to fan out in all directions to reach their places of employment.
First National Real Estate Port Augusta director Mick Gilbert notes that Port Augusta is the nearest major town to South Australia’s major resource project – Olympic Dam – and that this much talked about mine is a major employer for the city’s population.
“We’re only 300km south of Roxby Downs and the Olympic Dam project,” he says. “Back in 2001 to 2007 when the last expansion happened, it had a really positive effect on our city. A truck load of investors came over, especially from the eastern states and even from Perth, and prices skyrocketed.”
With plans for the BHP Billiton-owned Olympic Dam’s latest expansion expected to be finalised this year, the mood amongst the city’s real estate insiders is that now is the time to buy into this South Australian regional powerhouse before the herd come rolling in.
“If you look at the outlook for Port Augusta over the next five years, it is extremely exciting, particularly as Roxby Downs will potentially become the biggest mine in the world,” says Century 21 Port Augusta manager John Rejack.
“We believe the state and federal government announcements are not far away, and the board of BHP would then meet to make their decision,” he adds, noting that BHP is likely to make its final call in March or April next year.
He adds that, in preparation for the Olympic Dam effect as well as supporting the city’s status as the South Australian far north’s regional linchpin, the Port Augusta council is in the process of rezoning sufficient land to create an additional 5,000 residential allotments.
And the state government sees the development of Port Augusta as a major priority, having formally adopted the Port Augusta Structure Plan into its State Planning Strategy at the beginning of the year.
The plan, says Minister for Urban Development and Planning Paul Holloway, is to guide development and growth in Port Augusta to ensure the city can respond to mining and defence industry growth in the north and west of the state.
“It seeks to ensure there is a supply of well located, market ready and affordable industrial, commercial and residential land, when needed,” says Holloway. “The Structure Plan identifies where this land is located, with great consideration to how appropriate infrastructure and services can be provided. In turn, this will provide Port Augusta with a competitive advantage as an investment destination.”
In the meantime the city’s tight rental market will tide investors over while the government’s plans take shape.
“Our rental market at the moment is performing extremely well. In fact, housing demand is at the strongest level I have seen for over 20 years,” says Rejack.
He notes that three-bedroom houses are most in demand, and those that are well-presented, well-located and have a garage and outdoor entertaining areas will rent for $280-$300pw. As a general rule however, Gilbert adds that anything that’s “neat and tidy” will be snapped up by tenants.
Port Augusta West and Stirling North are the two areas that top renters’ wish lists. Rejack notes that there’s even a tenant waiting list in these two desirable suburbs.