The NSW government has paid 123 home-owners a total of $861,000 to leave Wollongong, since July last year. And the bulk of them headed to nearby Shellharbour, Kiama and Shoalhaven.
The figures have prompted Keira MP Ryan Park to label the government's controversial Regional Relocation Grant initiative a "farce".
The four-year scheme offers residents in metropolitan areas such as Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong a $7000 incentive to move to regional NSW.
It has been capped at 40,000 grants, but figures from the NSW Office of State Revenue show the takeup has been slow, with just 1363 grants provided across NSW from when the scheme began in July 2011 until the end of October this year.
Of the 123 home owners enticed to leave Wollongong, 52 headed across the Windang bridge and bought property in Shellharbour. Another 21 headed further down the coast to Shoalhaven. Five relocated to Kiama, while four moved to Wingecarribee. The remaining 41 grant recipients moved elsewhere in NSW.
"The government should be embarrassed that individuals are paid $7000 to move what's literally across a bridge ... when the community is crying out for important infrastructure and services," Mr Park said yesterday.
He called on Premier Barry O'Farrell to step in and axe the grants scheme.
Regions close to metropolitan areas have proved to be the most popular for relocations, with 378 grants awarded to people moving into the Hunter region, 324 for those moving to the Illawarra, and 289 for the Mid North Coast.
For those leaving Wollongong, 16 were from Dapto, followed by 12 from Woonona, nine from Horsley and eight from Helensburgh, according to the figures. The rest represented a spread of suburbs across the city.
Minister for the Illawarra Greg Pearce acknowledged the uptake of grants was disappointing.
"The Regional Relocation Grant is designed to encourage people to make a sea or tree change and are an attractive incentive, particularly for those families already considering a move from large cities to regional areas," he said. "While the uptake of these grants is disappointing, the NSW government will continue to work to encourage growth in regional areas, generating jobs and stimulating local economies."