The $1.5 billion Shell Cove project has reached a new milestone with a contract awarded for works on the boat harbour.
Coastwide Civil was yesterday unveiled as the winning tenderer for the first stage of works on the $150 million boat harbour.
The contract is the first of four to be issued for the harbour's construction with the first stage expected to take about a year to complete after the first sod is turned in January.
The boat harbour, slightly larger than Sydney's Darling Harbour, is expected to take between five and eight years to complete.
Shellharbour Mayor Marianne Saliba said many residents would regard the announcement as an early Christmas present. She also acknowledged some scepticism existed in the community as a result of the project's colourful 30-year history.
Initially an idea to generate job opportunities for the Illawarra in response to job losses in the steel industry in the early 1980s, the boat harbour has been riddled with delays and broken promises.
Cr Saliba said the project "was founded on socially and fiscally responsible decision making which holds true more than 25 years later".
"A lot of work has gone into getting the project to this stage and successive councils have supported this project," Cr Saliba said.
"I know some residents won't believe this is happening until they see the soil turned, but I'm going to be out there in January turning that soil and I'm really looking forward to seeing the project completed."
Cr Saliba acknowledged a $20 million funding deal with Shell Cove project manager Australand was key to re-igniting the boat harbour part of the project.
"We have protected Shellharbour City residents from any excess cost in relation to this," she said.
"As residents would be aware, no money has come out of Shellharbour City Council coffers to pay for this, this is all from the sale of land," Cr Saliba said.
"There will be a period of 18 months where we will be spending more than we are making ... and during that stage Australand will be covering costs; once we get back to developing and selling land that money will be re-couped by Australand," she said.
The boat harbour will be the centrepiece of what will be a $600 million precinct.