In 2013, the Illawarra-Shoalhaven region generated $16.2 billion in Gross Regional Product (GRP), making it the third-largest economic contributor to regional growth in NSW.1 Manufacturing was the largest contributor to regional output, contributing $1.9 billion and employing nearly 10 per cent of local jobs.
While the region continues to transition to a knowledge-based economy, its manufacturing and steel-making activities remain a critical industry sector, with BlueScope Steel a particularly significant employer and contributor to the regional economy. The diverse industrial capabilities and skills base involved with this sector has helped build a competitive advantage for the region, which in turn helps create new opportunities in advanced manufacturing.
The Regional Plan aims to capitalise on the region’s ‘knowledge based’ assets such as the University of Wollongong (one of Australia’s top 10 universities), the Innovation Campus and the defence industries at Nowra. The region also has a skilled workforce - the number of residents with a bachelor’s degree was 56.8 per cent of the working-age population in 2011, higher than the regional NSW equivalent of 53.7 per cent.2
The Plan builds on the region’s existing economic strengths, and identifies the following priority growth sectors:
Growing these sectors will help to grow a 21st century economy and, importantly, generate local jobs. The priority growth sectors infographic below outlines the role of the Regional Plan and regional stakeholders in supporting these sectors.
The Plan aims to:
It builds on the NSW Government’s five goals for regional economic development:
The region’s proximity to Sydney allows businesses and residents to tap into the globally significant activities of metropolitan Sydney. Currently, 13 per cent of the region’s workforce commutes to Sydney – the majority from the north of the region.
The Plan aims to enhance connections to Sydney, and a number of strategic infrastructure projects will deliver on this objective.
The Illawarra-Shoalhaven’s proximity to Sydney provides good opportunities for infrastructure-led growth. Collectively,the transport investments listed below have the potential to inject $4.4 billion into the economy over the period to 2050 and increase employment by 12,732 full-time equivalent positions.3 These investments would also deliver significant economic and employment benefits to Sydney. Interregional transport infrastructure that could support growth includes:
In the 2015-16 Budget, the NSW Government committed over $350 million to 20 infrastructure projects benefiting the Illawarra-Shoalhaven. They include a range of road, health,emergency services and transport projects, such as committing $140 million towards the Princes Highway Foxground and Berry bypass, $19.3 million for the Bulli Hospital Aged Care Centre of Excellence and $94 million for new state-of-the-art trains that will service the Illawarra.4
The region is traditionally known for its industrial production and mining, but it has a diverse economy that includes manufacturing, retail, health, education and training, public administration and safety, and construction. The Plan will help further diversify the region’s economy through a focus on the six priority growth sectors discussed below:
Tourism – Regional assets such as the Illawarra Escarpment; the Illawarra Regional Airport; The Waterfront, Shell Cove; the Wollongong Entertainment Centre; Lake Illawarra; and Jervis Bay can drive growth opportunities in the tourism industry through trails and experiences, marine-based tourism, and events-based visitation.
Health, disability and aged care – The region can leverage the significant Government investment in health infrastructure; the expertise of the University of Wollongong; the Dementia Training Study Centre and two of Australia’s largest community-based aged care providers; and encourage health education, training and employment opportunities in residential care, allied health and community sectors.
ICT/knowledge services – The ICT and knowledge services sector, in a broader sense, has the potential to provide significant advances in health, education, telework, e-commerce, business services, financial services, and information and communications technology. Key enablers include the University of Wollongong ICT graduates (largest in NSW), the university’s Innovation Campus, the National Broadband Network and Wollongong’s proximity to Sydney (encouraging telework).
Education and training – The education sector is expected to grow due to the appeal of the region’s vocational and tertiary offerings. This is led by the University of Wollongong and its Innovation Campus, which is designed to bridge the gap between pure and applied research. There is also a strong health-related education presence in the region. Wollongong and Nowra hospitals are both teaching hospitals with close links with the University of Wollongong’s Graduate School of Medicine campuses in those centres.
Aviation, defence and advanced manufacturing – The region can leverage the innovation and research expertise of the University, access to the international trade gateway at Port Kembla, an increasingly strong defence industry cluster focused around HMAS Albatross and HMAS Creswell in the Shoalhaven, and a growing light aeronautics and training industry cluster, located at the Illawarra Regional Airport.
Freight and logistics (port-related activities) – Logistics-related industry is predicted to grow in the region as the port of Port Kembla expands into containerised trade and other exports. The growth of the port is already creating demand for industries such as shipping, warehousing, distribution and support services to cater for the expanding trade in vehicle importation.4
The urban areas of Wollongong and Shellharbour form a contiguous community that is likely to be home to around half a million people by 2050. Metro Wollongong is at the heart of this urban area and will drive the economic growth, employment and diversification of the region’s economy. It currently supports 34,000 jobs in sectors as diverse as tertiary health and education, business, the public sector, innovation, and research and development.5 Metro Wollongong comprises five distinct precincts – health, education, the commercial core, the waterfront and the Innovation Campus (see the Metro Wollongong map below). Creating an urban identity for Metro Wollongong that integrates the economic, cultural and intellectual elements of each precinct is a priority as it will boost the potential for economic and civic growth, and consolidate its position as a nationally significant city. It can also provide a foundation for innovation and the cross-fertilisation of ideas.
Metro Wollongong is a prime location for greater housing choice, and particularly high density apartment living that can take advantage of the services and transport already available. There is strong demand from students, medical interns and key health workers for low-cost housing, and from seniors who want to access health care, cultural activities and other services.
Wollongong City Council’s Evening Economy Policy has helped to bolster a burgeoning urban lifestyle in Metro Wollongong, including a growing coffee culture and small bar scene that is creating a more vibrant and diverse centre between 5pm and midnight. The city’s growing vitality is enhancing its appeal to tourists and as a place to host events and exhibitions.
More high quality office space is needed in the commercial core6 to build Metro Wollongong’s reputation as a nationally significant city and as a location to do business – one that can capitalise on its proximity to global markets in Sydney and an increasing number of skilled workers.7
The University of Wollongong, rated among the top 10 universities in Australia8, estimates that it contributes $659 million to the gross regional product of Wollongong, and provides 4,825 full-time equivalent jobs.9 Issues such as traffic congestion and the provision of student accommodation both on and off campus must be assessed and managed for the university to achieve its growth potential.
The commercial core and health precincts are connected to the broader region by Wollongong railway station, while the ‘Gong Shuttle’ bus provides an important public transport link between precincts (on average, 260,000 patrons use the service each month).
As growth increases the demand for transport, improved walkways and cycleways will make it easier for people to move around the city, and for businesses to link up. It will also improve the safety of, and access to, public spaces, particularly along west Crown Street towards Wollongong Hospital.
There are already a range of local initiatives aimed at enhancing the growth potential and functionality of Metro Wollongong, including:
The challenge is to bring these initiatives together so that all stakeholders are working towards a shared vision for Metro Wollongong.
Metro Wollongong is being enhanced by major developments and investments including:
*NSW Government investments
The commercial core supports almost 14,000 jobs and over 40 per cent of the jobs within Metro Wollongong. The priority is to make more high quality office space available and increase the quality of public spaces in the commercial core so that it becomes more attractive for investment and as a place to do business.
The NSW Government will work with Wollongong City Council to:
The commercial core already houses 650 residents11 but there is potential to increase this number to add to the vitality of the city; build the resilience of local businesses; improve safety; and promote more events and attractions.
The priorities are to facilitate the growth of residential communities within the precincts of Metro Wollongong that accommodate 34,000 jobs and improve the public domain to make it easier to walk and cycle between homes and jobs.
The NSW Government will work with Wollongong City Council to:
Connecting and integrating the individual precincts of Metro Wollongong is central to growing its national competitiveness to provide jobs and housing. The priorities are an efficient road network in and around Metro Wollongong and better traffic management through the centre, integrated with reliable bus services and pedestrian and cycle networks that allow people to easily move from one precinct to another.
Pedestrian and cycle routes have already been provided along the waterfront precinct as part of Council’s Blue Mile project. The Council has proposed an additional 11 kilometres of cycling links through Metro Wollongong.
The NSW Government will work with Wollongong City Council to:
West Crown Street links the health precinct and the commercial core and links both precincts to Wollongong railway station. It has high volumes of motor vehicle and pedestrian traffic with more than 20,000 vehicles per day passing through west Crown Street and 5,170 people coming and going from the railway station.12
The priorities are to revitalise this area and improve safety and access to the railway station to encourage more development opportunities.
The NSW Government will work with Wollongong City Council to:
The university has considerable growth potential but needs to resolve issues to do with congestion, the public domain (providing safe and accessible public spaces) and accommodation.
The university has identified a need for 1,200 beds for student accommodation by 2020.13 Accommodating the demand for student housing, both onsite and offsite, will benefit the campus and the broader area.
Resolving these issues will help to shore up opportunities for development at both the main campus and the Innovation Campus, as well as integrate developments like the university’s $30 million Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute, $20 million iAccelerate incubator program and $35 million SMART Infrastructure Facility.
The NSW Government will work with the university to finalise its Master Plan to:
The priority is to coordinate the action of State and Local Governments; health and education institutions; and the private sector to achieve Metro Wollongong’s growth potential. This will build upon individual initiatives and introduce a consistent approach to the consideration of new proposals. The NSW Government will:
The port of Port Kembla is one of the State’s five deep-water freight ports and therefore has an important competitive advantage. The port connects the Illawarra-Shoalhaven to the rest of the world through its export of bulk commodities and import of motor vehicles. The port also continues to support steelmaking operations within the Port Kembla Steelworks.
The port directly and indirectly supports over 3,500 jobs and contributes $418 million to the regional economy each year.14 It is currently the only port in NSW capable of receiving motor vehicles, and it continues to play an important role in the export of coal (13.4 million tonnes in 2012-13) and grain (2.6 million tonnes in 2012-13), the carriage of iron ore, and the shipment of steel and associated products.15
Recent investments, such as the $170 million inner harbour upgrade16, have given the port the capability to handle break-bulk cargoes as well as motor vehicle imports. Approvals have been given to expand the capacity of the outer harbour, and a $700 million redevelopment is already under way17.The three-stage expansion will include the construction of a bulk berth and a container berth, new road and rail links, and reclamation of 42 hectares of land.
A key priority for longer-term expansion of the port is to preserve the option of a new freight rail connection to Sydney via the Maldon-Dombarton corridor. This will support the expanding resources sector in the Illawarra-Shoalhaven by providing alternative access to Port Kembla; enable Port Kembla to accommodate overflow from Port Botany’s container business; and provide a more reliable link between the southwest and western coal mines and the rest of the eastern seaboard.
The availability of industrial land to support the port of Port Kembla is discussed in more detail in Direction 1.4.
The NSW Government will:
The carriage of freight to and from the port currently relies on existing road and rail corridors such as the M1 Princes Motorway (Mount Ousley Road) and Picton Road (the primary freight network), Appin Road (the secondary freight network), as well as the South Coast Rail Line. Curfews on freight operations mean that freight movements are often forced into peak traffic periods when there is greater pressure on the road network.
The priorities are to protect the port and the freight network from potential encroachment by the expansion of residential areas and other sensitive land uses, and to create connections between heavy vehicle routes that do not involve local roads.
The NSW Government will work with Wollongong City Council and the port of Port Kembla to:
Metro Wollongong (Direction 1.1) and the port of Port Kembla (Direction 1.2) are key drivers of economic growth in the region. The region’s economic prosperity will also be supported by growing the economic competitiveness of:
Maximising the growth potential of these places will require further investment, coordination and, in some cases, the review of planning and development controls.
These places can be used to encourage growth closer to areas where population growth is already occurring.
Nowra Centre is the business, retail and services hub of the Shoalhaven. It has retail and commercial offerings, civic and government services catering for the local community, and tourism functions.
The Nowra Centre supports 9,200 jobs, concentrated in health care (2,600 jobs), retail (1,650) and public administration (1,100)18. Major employers include Shoalhaven City Council and the Shoalhaven District Memorial Hospital. Planning for the growth of the health care sector in Nowra will help to diversify and strengthen the Centre.
Shoalhaven City Council is already working to renew and revitalise the Centre to encourage new business opportunities through the:
The priorities are to increase public transport use, better integrate walkways and cycleways, improve pedestrian connections across the highway, and better integrate recreational uses around the Shoalhaven River and the commercial activity in the Centre. As Nowra Centre grows it will be important to coordinate local and State infrastructure.
The NSW Government will:
Shellharbour Centre increasingly provides goods and services for the central parts of the region. Retail is currently the major source of economic activity, although there are opportunities to build on the health and education presence in the Centre, which contribute 30 per cent of the jobs in this area.19
The NSW Government has recently released plans for the expansion of Shellharbour Hospital into a major metropolitan hospital, to become an acute hub for the central part of the region.20
Shellharbour TAFE offers programs in business and administration services; nursing, engineering and automotive trade courses; and basic adult education and general education.
Growth in the central part of the region, including at West Lake Illawarra, will increase the demand on existing health and education institutions. To enable these institutions to take advantage of these increased demands and to use their land to grow and attract complementary activity, the priorities are public transport connections and opportunities for expansion.
The Oak Flats Railway Station is the main public transport link to the Shellharbour Centre. Another priority is to improve bus services providing southern connections around Lake Illawarra to make it easier to access the centre.
As Shellharbour Centre grows it will be important to coordinate local and state infrastructure.
The NSW Government will work with Shellharbour City Council to deliver a Shellharbour Centre Investment Plan that will:
Shoalhaven incorporates two naval bases – HMAS Albatross, which is Australia’s only Naval Air Station (10 kilometres southwest of Nowra), and HMAS Creswell (within Jervis Bay Territory). A number of other military facilities in the area support the bases and help to underpin a defence sector that employs more than 2,500 people, and contributes in excess of $295 million to the Shoalhaven economy.
The Albatross Aviation Technology Park is being developed adjacent to HMAS Albatross. The park is Shoalhaven City Council’s initiative and has already resulted in a cluster of electronics, IT, logistics and aviation businesses. It provides technology companies operating in the aviation domain with the opportunity to locate near one of Australia’s major military aviation bases. It houses more than 10 defence and defence-related industries and is expected to provide 1,500 jobs when fully developed.
Supporting the growth of the defence sector will further diversify the regional economy, spread the benefits of increased economic activity and help to revitalise Nowra Centre. The priorities are to provide well-located and well-serviced land to attract new industries; protect the air space around the defence facilities consistent with the current Australian Noise Exposure Forecast mapping; and provide quality accommodation (including serviced apartments), and attractive cultural facilities and destinations to attract new residents.
The NSW Government will work with Shoalhaven City Council to:
The Illawarra Regional Airport is a licensed airport, owned and operated by Shellharbour City Council. The catchment area for the airport extends south to Nowra, west to Bowral and north to the southern suburbs of Sydney. In excess of 300 people are either employed full-time or are regular volunteers at businesses located in the airport.
Core functions of the airport include:
The NSW Government will work with Shellharbour City Council to:
Destination NSW estimates that the visitor economy is worth almost $1.3 billion per year to the Illawarra-Shoalhaven, and brings in over 6.7 million visitors each year, representing over 8 per cent of total visitors to NSW. Total overnight visitors in Shoalhaven alone reached, on average, over one million per year between 2010 and 2014.
The tourism industry has an opportunity to make a significant contribution to jobs growth in the Illawarra-Shoalhaven by increasing the number of visitors to the region and encouraging day trippers to stay overnight or take longer holidays in the area. Regional assets such as the Illawarra Escarpment; the Illawarra Regional Airport; The Waterfront, Shell Cove; the Wollongong Entertainment Centre; Lake Illawarra; and Jervis Bay provide tourism growth opportunities such as those listed below.
To capitalise on these opportunities, it will be necessary to boost the amount of accommodation (such as hotels in Nowra and Shellharbour, and serviced apartments in Wollongong). This will position the region as a year-round destination.
Crown Lands are important tourism, recreational and environmental assets that can support growth in the tourism sector.
The South Coast Regional Tourism Organisation’s Destination Management Plan outlines elements required to grow the visitor economy. These include enhancing regional assets; building relationships, attractions, and activities; market diversification; infrastructure provision; and skills development.
Located just south of Shellharbour Village at Shell Cove, The Waterfront is being developed as a boating, tourist and lifestyle destination. It provides a safe harbour purpose-designed for private boating, and is a starting point to connect visiting boats, or to hire a boat to take advantage of the network of harbours along the NSW South Coast, including Kiama, Huskisson and Ulladulla, as well as harbours further south and the numerous marine parks along the coast.
On completion, The Waterfront, Shell Cove will generate more than 2,000 long term employment opportunities. It will include a floating pontoon to berth 300 boats, associated marine facilities, boat maintenance businesses and docking facilities for re-fuelling. The precinct is expected to contribute an additional $514 million to the economy from construction, residential and tourism spending.
The NSW Government will:
With access to a deep-water port, road and rail connections, and a skilled workforce, the region is a highly sought after location for industrial land for the expansion of existing industrial activity and for new industries.
The growth of Port Kembla is driving demand from port-related industries for large industrial land sites and warehousing facilities, such as the new logistics and freight handling facilities at Kembla Grange. Demand is expected to continue as the development plans for the outer harbour precinct are realised and the Port opens up to containerised trade.
An industrial lands audit in 2014 revealed that 3,110 hectares of land has been zoned for industrial development (see Wollongong and surrounds map below). Of this total, 604 hectares are vacant; with the majority located in either the Wollongong or Shoalhaven Local Government Areas.21 Over 1,000 hectares of industrial land, comprising roughly one-third of all industrial zoned land in the region, is associated with the steel making sector. The majority of this land is located at Port Kembla and Kembla Grange, some of which has been identified as being available for other uses that can help contribute to the region’s growth.
Supply of industrial land is projected to be sufficient to meet long term demands in the region. As the Bombo Quarry in Kiama nears the end of its extractive life, there will be an opportunity to secure more land for residential, commercial and/or industrial purposes in the future as part of a master plan covering a range of uses for the area.
The refocusing of steel-making operations at Port Kembla has resulted in the identification of sites that are surplus to current operations and can be made available for alternative uses. Properties within and adjacent to the main Port Kembla industrial complex offer a mix of buildings and sites, while Kembla Grange offers the potential for new greenfield employment land opportunities. Before redevelopment or alternative uses of these areas can occur, a better understanding of issues such as access, servicing, land constraints, statutory, land use conflict and tenure is required.
Taking a strategic approach to the consideration of appropriate alternative land uses at these sites, including the resolution of barriers, will facilitate these lands being used for new employment generating developments. This will enhance the economic diversification of the region by supporting the development of port-related activities in and around Port Kembla.
The NSW Government will work with Wollongong City Council and major landholders at Port Kembla to better:
The supply of industrial land depends on a number of factors including servicing; location and size; and constraints such as flooding, bushfire and the location of biodiversity. The industrial lands audit (see above) revealed that certain physical constraints affect the Illawarra-Shoalhaven’s industrial land supply, including bushfire (60 per cent of vacant land) and flooding (35 per cent). While not absolute constraints, they add additional complexity in bringing industrial land to market and create the risk of a long term shortfall in employment land.
The servicing of water, sewer, gas and electricity infrastructure also presents challenges that can affect the take-up of land. Fifty-eight per cent of vacant industrial land in the region is serviced by water; 33 per cent is serviced by sewer; and 78 per cent is serviced by electricity.
As a regionally important industrial land area, Kembla Grange would benefit from additional infrastructure to support development. The area is experiencing an increase in demand because of the ongoing demand from the port as an off-site industrial area.
The NSW Government will:
The Employment Lands Guidelines for the Illawarra (2008) provide guidance about managing future industrial, commercial and other employment-related development.22 They are primarily focused on traditional industries such as heavy industrial, light industrial and retail, which will continue to play a significant part in the regional economy.
Aided by a number of regional trends, including the ageing of the population, technological change and the increasing prosperity of Asia, the region’s economic base has started to shift away from traditional industries and into service-based industries such as health care, education and knowledge-based services.
Updating the Employment Lands Guidelines for the Illawarra and Shoalhaven keeps the principles relevant so that the planning system is not a barrier to investment and supports the priority growth sectors as they become the focus for economic growth in the region. The NSW Government will:
OCHRE (Opportunity, Choice, Healing, Responsibility, Empowerment) is the NSW Government’s plan for Aboriginal affairs. It focuses on revitalising and promoting Aboriginal languages and culture; creating opportunities; increasing the Aboriginal community’s capacity; providing choice; and empowering Aboriginal people to exercise that choice, as well as giving them the tools to take responsibility for their own future.
Many of the OCHRE actions are outside the planning system, but there is an opportunity to look at the landholdings of Aboriginal Land Councils to see how they can best be planned, managed and developed for the benefit of the local Aboriginal community. This will allow Aboriginal people to gain economic benefit from their land and provide greater opportunities for economic independence.
Together, Aboriginal Affairs NSW, Crown Lands and the Department of Planning and Environment, will work with the Local Aboriginal Land Councils (LALC’s) to identify their landholdings and to map the level of constraint at a strategic scale for each site. This information can be used to develop options for the potential commercial use of the land; for example, for Aboriginal housing and employment opportunities. It has potential to provide economic returns to the Local Aboriginal Land Councils that can be invested in assistance programs in the region.
The NSW Government will:
Page last updated: 25/09/2019