NSW Department of Planning and Environment

The Plan


Image of Globe Lane Wollongong with mural on the side of a building wall

The Illawarra Shoalhaven Regional Plan sets the strategic framework for the region, aiming to protect and enhance the region’s assets and plan for a sustainable future.

It is a 20-year land use plan prepared in accordance with section 3.3 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 and applies to the local government areas of Wollongong, Shellharbour, Kiama and Shoalhaven.

It will inform councils’ land use planning, inform the work of infrastructure agencies to plan for growth and change, and inform the private sector and the wider community of the NSW Government’s approach to creating a connected, sustainable, innovative and vibrant Illawarra Shoalhaven.

The Regional Plan represents the third iteration of strategic planning in the Illawarra Shoalhaven, which began with the Illawarra Regional Strategy and South Coast Regional Strategy in 2007. During the preparation of this Regional Plan the region experienced drought, floods, an unprecedented bushfire season that impacted 80 per cent of Shoalhaven LGA and the COVID-19 pandemic. These events will have lasting impacts on the economy, infrastructure, social systems, the natural environment and the wellbeing of people and communities across NSW.

This Regional Plan considers these far-reaching historical moments alongside an evidence base that analyses population growth and change, the regional economy, housing and employment markets, where important environmental and resource areas are located, and natural hazards.

Resilience will be a critical component of the region’s future. Strategic planning will be necessary to identify vulnerable communities and opportunities to better anticipate or even avoid disruptive challenges.

The Regional Plan takes a landscape- based approach to regional planning that embraces and protects important environmental values and their contribution to economic growth, liveability and health. It leverages the region’s location and builds on the region’s strengths to provide smart, efficient and reliable connections that bring residents and visitors closer to jobs, centres, education and the natural environment.

The Regional Plan identifies 15 regionally significant precincts that will drive jobs creation, housing diversity, and vibrant communities. These places contain more than 2,300 hectares for employment, hubs for recreation, culture, housing and innovation, as well as almost 45,000 jobs, and growth areas that provide land for almost 38,000 new homes.

Collaboration has underpinned the process to review the Regional Plan and will also underpin a whole-of-government approach to strategic planning, streamline the planning process, and help to optimise opportunities for transformational change.

About the Illawarra Shoalhaven

The Illawarra Shoalhaven region is the land of the Wodi Wodi, Wandandian, Yuin and Murramarang Aboriginal people. The Illawarra, Nowra, Jerrinja, Ulladulla and Batemans Bay Local Aboriginal Land Councils own local land holdings and have responsibilities for Aboriginal people living in the area.

The region's natural setting is the backdrop to a mix of coastal, urban and rural lifestyles, enabling the ultimate work-life balance. This is a natural setting to be valued, respected and carefully managed. The region’s strength comes from its communities and public spaces, seen through people’s strong ties to natural and cultural environments. With the future of work changing, and as the region moves ahead following the COVID-19 pandemic, the region’s communities and public spaces will be even more essential, especially as people continue to work flexibly, are more active in their local area, and visit local shops and cafes more often.

The Illawarra Shoalhaven economy contributes to the NSW economy in sectors such as education, research and innovation, advanced manufacturing, health and aged care, defence, construction, retail, professional and financial services. The region contributed $23.9 billion to the State’s economy in 2019, an increase of $7.7 billion (47 per cent) from 2013.

The region is home to an international trade gateway at Port Kembla; a university with global reach in the University of Wollongong; a city of national significance in Metro Wollongong; regional cities in Nowra and Shellharbour that drive prosperity and liveability; a visitor economy worth $1.71 billion and a skilled workforce residents who travel Greater Sydney for work.

Reviewing the Regional Plan

Released in November 2015, the Illawarra Shoalhaven Regional Plan 2036 was the first of nine plans across the to be finalised. Since then, the NSW Government has worked closely with councils, other stakeholders and the community to deliver on key priority actions, which have also informed the review of the Regional Plan. Key actions delivered include:

  • The development of a 20-year vision to unlock the economic benefits of marine tourism through the NSW South Coast Marine Tourism Strategy 2019.
  • An analysis of the precincts in Metro Wollongong to identify opportunities to activate the health, education, commercial, entertainment and recreation functions.
  • Improving the protection of regional environmental assets including biodiversity corridors, riparian areas and Lake Illawarra storm water management.
  • Monitoring of land for housing and jobs through on online Dashboard that improves data accessibility and informs forward planning for servicing agencies.

The year 2020 has shown how strategic planning must adapt to meet changing circumstances and needs. Many communities are still reeling from the devastating bushfires and floods, and the COVID-19 pandemic has shown how the region’s natural assets – its beaches, parks, open spaces, leafy streets – are key to public life.

It is therefore crucial that land-use planning has a strong focus on sustainability and resilience. Opportunities identified within the Shoalhaven Illawarra Enabling Regional Adaptation Report have been incorporated into the revised Regional Plan. This has included consideration of climate change adaptation pathways with the aim of transitioning key regional systems to a more resilient future relating to settlements, transport, water, industrial transformation, energy, food and emergency management.

Amendments to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 in 2018 recognise the critical role that strategic planning at a regional and local level play in managing growth and change. Together with councils’ local strategic planning statements, the review of regional plans across the State is allowing communities to respond to and build vibrant places that leverage their unique strengths and potential.

The Regional Plan has been prepared concurrently with Transport for NSW’s Illawarra Shoalhaven Regional Transport Plan, a multi- modal and integrated vision for how transport planning will proactively support how land is used in the Region. Together, the Transport Plan and this Regional Plan set a coordinated 20-year vision to manage growth and change for the Illawarra Shoalhaven in the context of social, economic and environmental matters.

Key inputs to the Regional Plan have included:

  • A Regional Approach to Sustainability in the Illawarra Shoalhaven 2020 – embeds sustainability into the Regional Plan identifying regional collaborative opportunities
  • Public Spaces in the Illawarra Shoalhaven Region 2020 – investigates and analyses access to public spaces in the Region and identifies opportunities to improve access
  • Councils’ 2020 Local Strategic Planning Statements and their current Community Strategic Plans
  • the NSW Government’s State Infrastructure Strategy 2018-2038, Future Transport 2056, A 20-year Economic Vision for Regional NSW, and regional economic development strategies for Kiama, Shellharbour and Shoalhaven

Local strategic planning statements

The legislative framework set out in the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 provides a clear line of sight from regional planning to local delivery. The Framework includes local strategic planning statements, prepared by councils.

Local strategic planning statements respond to each area’s opportunities, changes and trends, and must be consistent with the relevant regional plan and a council’s Community Strategic Plan, prepared under the Local Government Act 1993.

This framework allows different levels of government to coordinate and realise greater efficiencies as the strategies and actions in regional plans are implemented.

Image of a blue and grey inforgraphic - a visual representaiton of the Global, National, NSW,Region, Local, Site plan for the Illawarra Shoalhaven Regional Plan 2041