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NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment
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People come to the region because of the lifestyle opportunities available from the stunning coastal landscape. The NSW Government will use the appeal of the coast to grow its economy but not at the expense of this landscape. 


The NSW Government’s place-based approach to planning aims to ensure that future generations are able to enjoy the same coastal landscape as residents today. It will take advantage of the region’s natural and built landscapes to create high quality neighbourhoods and centres that contribute to social cohesion and community wellbeing.   


The built environment of neighbourhoods will be integrated with the landscape, open space, public transport, and walkways and cycleways to encourage healthy living and community interaction.

Improvements in transport will enable more people to move between and within centres so they can connect to jobs, services, the arts, and cultural and recreational activities. This will make centres livelier, more appealing places to work, live and visit, and will help to maximise the use of parks, civic squares, sporting and cultural facilities, and other public spaces.


The benefits of economic growth can be reinvested to restore the natural assets of the region and allow communities to reconnect to the coast and experience one of the defining features of the region – the coastal lifestyle.

Centres concentrate retailing, commercial, business and government functions in one place, which makes public investment in transport and the public domain (public spaces) more viable.


The Illawarra-Shoalhaven region has a network of centres that are categorised according to their functions. Higher order functions such as business, office and retail uses, along with arts, culture, recreation and entertainment facilities, are located in the larger centres (for example, Wollongong, Shellharbour and Nowra) while suburban centres have stronger local/district retail functions (for example, Corrimal, Warilla and Albion Park).


Allowing centres to grow to accommodate jobs and services is integral to their resilience. Currently, there is capacity for an additional 606,000 square metres of retail activity across the region, which exceeds the forecast demand of 475,000 square metres to meet population growth.23 The potential for growth is a key factor for the Government when considering investment in infrastructure.


The NSW Government’s preference is to put retail activity into centres. Proposals for new retail centres (including retail proposals) will be assessed against the region’s network of centres. These proposals should demonstrate how they:

  • respond to retail supply and demand;
  • respond to innovations in the retail sector;
  • maximise the use of existing infrastructure (including public transport and community facilities) commensurate with the scale of the proposal; and
  • enhance the value of the public realm.


The net community benefit should be a factor when assessing these proposals.


The Illawarra-Shoalhaven's network of centres

Centres hierarchy Centres servicing the Illawarra-Shoalhaven Key functions of the centre
Metropolitan centre Wollongong Provides a full range of higher order services and activities including business, office and retail uses, along with arts, culture, recreation and entertainment facilities to serve the wider community and broader region. Contains major tertiary education and health facilities and incorporates high density commercial and residential development.
Major regional centre Shellharbour Centre and Nowra Centre

Larger scale centres that service a number of districts, providing a wide range of business, retail and entertainment uses, including discount department stores, warehouses, and transport logistics and bulky goods operations. Includes higher density residential development in the centre.


Focal points for subregional road and transport networks and servicing for a number of districts.

Major urban centre Warrawong and Dapto Larger suburban centres that service a broad catchment of communities, providing a range of business, retail and entertainment uses, including discount department stores and bulky goods operations.
Regional centre Kiama, Milton-Ulladulla and Vincentia district Major town centres servicing the local area and surrounding suburbs, providing a range of business, retail and entertainment uses, including supermarkets, health and other services. They include some higher density residential development.
Urban centre Corrimal, Fairy Meadow, Figtree, Unanderra, Warilla and Albion Park Suburban centres servicing the local area and surrounding suburbs, providing a range of business, retail and entertainment uses, including supermarkets, health and other services.

Good transport connections are essential to move people to and from centres and the jobs, shops, entertainment, education facilities and health care services they provide.


The Illawarra Regional Transport Plan is the NSW Government’s plan for the provision of transport in the region, and is informed by the NSW Long Term Transport Master Plan. The Illawarra Regional Transport Plan and this Regional Plan aim to improve the connections between the region’s centres. They outline an approach to dealing with seasonal tourism that generates peak transport demands, reducing the travel time between Wollongong and Sydney, and improving the use of community transport services in more dispersed areas of the region.



ACTION 3.2.1: Investigate options to improve public transport service levels which better link centres, corridors and growth areas to Metro Wollongong

Metro Wollongong is the economic heart of the region and home to 23 per cent of all jobs.24


Given expected employment and housing growth in Metro Wollongong, and the significant growth identified for the West Lake Illawarra release areas, improving the links between these areas and other parts of the region is a high priority.


The NSW Government will develop strategies to better link centres, corridors and growth areas to Metro Wollongong building on:

  •  a network of bus services during peak periods to improve access to work and education;
  • regular day, evening and weekend bus services throughout the week, supported by local taxis; and
  • integrated local rail services with high quality bus services, supported by pedestrian and cycling networks.


ACTION 3.2.2: Improve access to centres, particularly in the northern corridor, to encourage development

The proximity of the northern corridor to Sydney means that there is considerable scope to support commuters and also attract business to the region relocating from Sydney. Over 21 per cent of the workforce in the northern corridor commutes to Sydney for work, compared to 3 per cent in the Shoalhaven and 13 per cent in the region overall.25


The Illawarra Regional Transport Plan identifies reducing public transport travel time between Wollongong and Sydney as an important action by focusing on integrating services and improving service connections and frequency.


To capitalise on improved public transport, new housing will be focused in and around centres in the rail corridor.


The NSW Government will:

  • enhance rail passenger services through timetable, fleet and track improvements; and
  • work with local bus operators to improve bus services, with routes and timetables that meet passenger needs.


ACTION 3.2.3: Investigate tourism-related transport services in Kiama and Shoalhaven

The influx of visitors during holiday periods puts temporary pressure on transport systems and services, particularly in the southern part of the region, including Kiama, Nowra and Ulladulla. A range of options are available to deal with this issue, such as better connecting tourist areas in the Shoalhaven (especially around Jervis Bay) to the railway station at Bomaderry; infrastructure improvements such as bus stops and bus shelters; branding and awareness activities; summer and special event timetables; town shuttles; pricing options; and park and ride services.


The NSW Government will:

  • investigate opportunities to improve tourism-related transport services in Kiama and Shoalhaven.


In both existing urban areas such as Metro Wollongong and new release areas such as West Dapto and Nowra-Bomaderry, new neighbourhoods and centres will be designed to offer a high quality lifestyle and to be environmentally sustainable, socially inclusive, easy to get to, healthy and safe.


Opportunities for people to be physically active where they work and in their neighbourhoods will be accommodated through the design and location of recreational facilities, sporting infrastructure, parks and public buildings. Opportunities will also be taken, wherever possible, to reconnect neighbourhood communities with the surrounding landscape. Walkways, cycle ways and public transport will be provided to make access to these places easier.


The NSW Government will encourage Councils to use the Neighbourhood Planning Principles:

  • when preparing their local environmental plans and development control plans for new release areas; and
  • in strategic planning to revitalise town centres, where appropriate, to use an urban design approach to restore ecological function, particularly along waterways and creeks.


Neighbourhood Planning Principles (NPP)

  • Provide public transport networks that integrate frequent buses services with rail timetables.
  • Ensure a range of land uses to provide the right mix of houses, jobs, open space, recreational space and green space.
  • Ensure easy access to major town centres with a full range of shops, recreational facilities and services, along with smaller village centres and neighbourhood shops.
  • Focus on building the job market locally and regionally, reducing the demand for transport services.
  • Plan streets and suburbs so that residents can walk to shops for their daily needs.
  • Provide a wide range of housing for different needs and different incomes, including traditional houses on individual blocks and smaller, lower-maintenance homes, units and terraces for older people and young singles or couples.
  • Facilitate housing diversity by providing a range of purpose-designed smaller lots and dwellings.
  • Ensure new housing developments provide a proportion of adaptable housing to further increase housing choice across the region to cater for the ever changing needs of residents.
  • Maintain conservation lands in and around development sites to protect biodiversity and provide open space for recreation.
  • Minimise negative impacts on the natural water cycles and protect the health of aquatic systems; for example, through Water Sensitive Urban Design principles.



ACTION 3.3.1: Review and update the Neighbourhood Planning Principles

There is significant support for the Neighbourhood Planning Principles. Updates that include outcomes for active transport (walking and cycling); water-sensitive urban design; efficient energy and water use; and the urban design and public domain of centres will increase their relevance.


The NSW Government will:

  • consult with Councils, agencies and industry representatives on a review and update of the Neighbourhood Planning Principles.


ACTION 3.3.2: Support Council-led revitalisation of centres

The region’s Councils are progressing a number of town centre plans to integrate land use and transport planning, improve the quality of the public domain, and encourage more environmentally sustainable development.


Wollongong City Council has already exhibited the Draft Corrimal Town Centre Revitalisation Strategy, with other centres in the northern corridor to follow suit. Shellharbour City Council has completed town centre plans for Albion Park, Oak Flats and Shellharbour Village, while Shoalhaven City Council has finalised revitalisation strategies for Nowra Centre. 


The NSW Government will:

  • improve coordination between State agencies, Councils and the private sector to support council-led revitalisation projects.


ACTION 3.3.3: Develop and implement strategies to invest in sporting and recreational infrastructure

The redevelopment and expansion of sporting and active recreation infrastructure will be necessary as the region grows so that it retains its appeal as an attractive place to live, work and visit.


There are opportunities to modernise existing ageing infrastructure; redevelop under-used single-sport facilities into multipurpose facilities with extended hours year-round; and to reduce water and energy consumption in sporting and recreational infrastructure by installing artificial turfs, and through more sustainable building design.


The NSW Government will:

  • work with stakeholders such as the Illawarra Pilot Joint Organisation and sports industries to review current and potential future sporting and recreational infrastructure; and
  • coordinate strategies for joint resourcing of new and redeveloped sporting and recreational infrastructure.


The Illawarra-Shoalhaven has a rich and diverse heritage reflected in the strong links between the Aboriginal people and the region’s coastline and escarpment – which are important cultural landscapes - and in the historic sites and townships associated with early European settlement, such as Mount Kembla.


Protecting this cultural heritage is important to the region’s communities, identity and character, and contributes to the visitor economy.



ACTION 3.4.1: Conserve heritage sites when preparing local planning controls

The development of new release areas such as West Lake Illawarra and Nowra-Bomaderry have the potential to impact on cultural heritage, so it is important that Councils’ growth management strategies and local environmental plans are consistent with heritage legislative processes, including:

  • directions issued under the planning legislation – for example, Local Planning Direction 2.3 Heritage Conservation;
  • the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 (and any outcomes from the NSW Government’s Aboriginal cultural heritage reform); and
  • guidelines and principles for heritage protection, released by the NSW Heritage Council.


The NSW Government will require that:

  • Councils conserve heritage assets when undertaking local strategic planning and development.


Page last updated: 25/09/2019