Almost two-thirds of people believe migration to Sydney should be restricted and new arrivals sent to the regions, exclusive polling reveals as the Premier says she wants a better not bigger NSW.
The ReachTel poll for the Herald also shows that overdevelopment remains a key issue for voters, as the state and federal governments face the pressue of worsening congestion and population growth.
The poll results come as the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, signalled plans to slow the intake of some temporary migrants and to encourage new arrivals to settle regionally.
Mr Morrison, with his Immigration Minister David Coleman and Cities Minister Alan Tudge, are looking at simplifying the visa process to get more migrants to move outside the major cities.
More than 63 per cent of voters polled for the Herald supported restricting migrant numbers while 50 per cent opposed more development in Sydney to accommodate population growth.
The Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, said the debate around population should focus on people and how to” ensure the best quality of life for all of us”.
“I want NSW to continue to be seen as the magnet for human talent,” Ms Berejikian said.
“But I am also fiercely committed to protecting and improving our way of life, and all that we love about our local communities -our parks, our open spaces, our beautiful beaches, waterways and bushland.”
Ms Berejiklian said there needed to be a national debate about population policy and she would be encouraging Mr Morrison to “join me in leading that discussion for the country’s benefit.”
“States are on the frontline of infrastructure and service delivery so it makes sense we should have a say on population policy,” Ms Berejikilan said.
“Rather than talk about a big Australia, we should always strive for a better Australia. We also need to encourage and make it easier for people to consider moving to regional NSW.”
The Migration Council of Austalia chief executive Carla Wilshire said redirecting migration to the regions was not going to fix the congestion problems plaguing Sydney and Melbourne.
“I can understand why people in Sydney feel like this but by restricting migration, it doesn’t solve an underlying under-investment in infrastructure and urban transport,” Ms Wilshire said.
The poll of 1627 people taken on Thursday night also asked voters to nominate the issues of concern to them, with the cost of living emerging as the most important to voters.
More than one-quarter of people identifed cost of living as their main concern followed by energy prices and housing affordabilty.
The environment was ahead of hospitals, schools and transport, according to the poll.
The polling also shows that the Coalition and Labor are neck and neck six months out from the state election, with Opposition leader Luke Foley edging ahead of Ms Berejiklian as preferred premier.
The weekend marked six months until the March poll, which is looking increasingly likely to result in a hung parliament. The government has only a six seat majority.
The polling shows the fallout from the bruising leadership spill in Canberra has had an impact in NSW, with 40.4 per cent of voters saying the change in prime minister had altered their view of the state Liberal Party.
The Coalition’s primary vote has slumped to 35.1 per cent, down from 41.9 per cent in March.
Labor’s primary vote has also taken a dip to 31.5 per cent from 32.5 per cent six months ago, the polling shows.
Mr Foley has pushed past Ms Berejiklian as the more popular leader, with 50.2 per cent of voters polled believing Mr Foley would make a better premier.
But despite Mr Foley’s personal standing, only 41.1 per cent of voters think Labor is ready to govern again.