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A productive and innovative region

Illawarra Shoalhaven Regional Plan 2041

The Illawarra Shoalhaven will leverage new and innovative economic opportunities to increase the number of jobs in knowledge services, health, research, advanced manufacturing, defence and the visitor economy.

Metro Wollongong is the heart of the Illawarra Shoalhaven region and the third largest city in NSW. It is home to one of Australia’s top-ten universities and is characterised by a health and knowledge economy, a highly skilled workforce and a growing hub of businesses with global reach.

The regional cities of Shellharbour and Nowra are locations for economic productivity, housing choice and cultural activities.

The global gateway of Port Kembla is one of the State’s five deep-water freight ports and connects the Illawarra Shoalhaven to the rest of the world through its export of bulk commodities and import of motor vehicles. The Port continues to support steelmaking operations within the Port Kembla Steelworks, and is a potential hub for hydrogen production.

Connectivity to the new Western Sydney International Airport will drive innovative economic opportunities and see an increase in visitors, attracted to the region’s unspoilt coastline and hinterland with dramatic escarpment, clean and picturesque beaches and world-renowned national parks.

For further details, read the Illawarra Shoalhaven Regional Plan 2041 (PDF, 15.0 MB).


The following outlines the objectives under theme 1 – A productive and innovative region:

Strengthen Metro Wollongong as a connected, innovative and progressive City

Metro Wollongong has attracted $1.5 billion of projects completed or under construction in recent years. As at late 2019 there were 15 fixed cranes above the skyline, building 900 new units and over 40,000 m2 of commercial space. Looking ahead, there is an exciting investment pipeline of more than $400 million in mixed use, residential and commercial projects.

Grow the region’s Regional Cities

The regional cities of Shellharbour and Nowra support the vision for the Illawarra Shoalhaven as a focal point for business, government and culture; a gathering place for civic events, community activities and social gatherings; and a destination for visitors.

Grow the Port of Port Kembla as an international trade hub

The Port of Port Kembla directly and indirectly  supports more than 3,500 jobs and contributes $543 million to the regional economy each year. The diverse commodity base of the Port today reflects the growth of the region and its capability to service the growing South West Sydney market.

Activate regionally significant employment precincts to support new and innovative economic enterprises

Regionally significant employment precincts will support jobs growth and development, and generate significant economic benefits for the community.

Create a diverse visitor economy

Almost 12 million visitors come to the Illawarra Shoalhaven each year, representing eight per cent of total visitors to NSW. Natural features, a vibrant arts scene, food and beverage trails, characterful towns and historic villages and a calendar of music, sporting and cultural events are key attractors.

Activate the region’s harbours to promote the blue highway

Marine tourism is defined as activities based in or near the marine environment, including land and water-based activities in coastal areas. The Port of Port Kembla is one of nine cruise- ready ports identified in Destination NSW’s Blue Highway, a strategy to attract new cruise ship arrivals along the coast.

Respond to the changing nature of retail

The retail sector is the Illawarra Shoalhaven’s second largest sector of employment, providing almost 17,000 jobs in 2018. Changing consumer behaviour is seeing an increase in e-commerce and a desire for innovative experiences. Retailers are reviewing store formats, improving their online presence and in some cases reducing their floor space.

Strengthen the economic self-determination of Aboriginal communities

OCHRE (Opportunity, Choice, Healing, Responsibility, Empowerment) is the NSW Government’s overarching policy framework for working with Aboriginal communities. It outlines a commitment to work in genuine partnership with Aboriginal people to support strong communities through education, economic development and culture.

Promote agriculture innovation, sustainability and value-add opportunities

The Illawarra Shoalhaven’s agriculture production is estimated to contribute over $104.2 million to the regional economy. The dairy industry contributes 11 per cent of NSW’s milk production and is worth over $66 million. Other rural enterprises include organic produce, beef, cut flowers, and fruit. The region supports 50 hectares of aquaculture leases and has 11 active oyster farms.

Sustainably maximise the productivity of resource lands

The Illawarra Shoalhaven has a strong history of mining and extraction activity, dating back 200 years when coal deposits were first discovered around Coalcliff. These natural resources continue to make an economic and cultural contribution to the region and to Sydney.