One swift movement of an excavator yesterday ended years of talk surrounding the Shell Cove boat harbour.
Work on the long-awaited project began with the first of more than 1 million cubic metres of soil shifted by contractor Coastwide Civil.
Shellharbour Mayor Marianne Saliba said that despite years of delays and deferrals, the project was now on its way.
"The people of Shellharbour have been waiting nearly 30 years," she said.
Cr Saliba is part of the second generation of her family to be involved in the project.
Her mother was part of the original council that approved the boat harbour.
"It feels great to be a part of this historic event - it's nice for my family to still be a part of it," she said.
Cr Kellie Marsh, who has also been heavily involved in the project, shared Cr Saliba's sentiment.
"It's an absolutely momentous day," she said.
"This has been a dream of many generations of Shellharbour City Council.
"This project is going to put Shellharbour City on the map," Cr Marsh said.
Councillors Saliba and Marsh joined Australand's Shell Cove development officer, Glenn Colquhoun, and other councillors to turn the first sod at the site yesterday, before the machinery rolled in.
Stage one of the $150 million harbour project includes around 400,000 cubic metres of excavation and construction of breakwaters. It is expected to be complete within the year.
Coastwide Civil, which was awarded the tender for the first stage of the project in November last year, has told the council the work could be done within nine to 12 months.
"If we complete the first stage [more quickly], we will be able to consider earlier starts to the other stages," the council's Shell Cove commercial manager, Kevin James, said.
"Stage two is the big one," he said.
The harbour, which will have a water surface about 30 per cent larger than Sydney's Darling Harbour, will be constructed in three separate stages.
It is expected to take between five and eight years to complete.