How $100 million from the lease of the port at Port Kembla should be spent in the region was one of the topics of interest when the Illawarra Business Chamber hosted Minister for the Illawarra Greg Pearce at its first executive lunch for 2013 yesterday.
Mr Pearce said he understood why there was so much interest in the subject.
And he suggested money to be used to upgrade the Princes Highway from proceeds from the lease would not necessarily come from the $100 million set aside for the Illawarra.
"I can tell you we expect the transaction [including the lease of Port Botany] to realise over $2 billion, which will then be provided to help support us building West Connex in Sydney, 'bridges for the bush' around regional NSW, further upgrades for the Pacific/Princes highways, and 30 per cent of the proceeds go into our regional NSW fund for infrastructure," he said.
"But, in addition to that, there is $100 million for the Illawarra. We can't spend it yet because we don't have it yet but we are getting closer to it. Once we have got the money, we will have a process that will involve your representatives working with us to decide on the priorities.
"A key priority for the Illawarra moving forward is to create investment in sustainable industries that will create long-term job opportunities," he said.
Mr Pearce said the Illawarra-South Coast Regional Action Plan was one way the government was trying to identify the key actions to focus on during the next two years.
His comments came ahead of an Illawarra Community Advisory Panel meeting yesterday afternoon.
The 12-member panel is designed to provide grassroots feedback and input on how the NSW government can work with the Illawarra community to advance its interests and improve services and infrastructure.
Mr Pearce said it was important for the whole community to settle on a direction everyone agreed on that would help it prosper and grow.
He said there were still some questions around that to be answered.
He said information and communication technologies would be one of the key drivers for the region in the future, acknowledging the Illawarra was at the forefront of the challenge to move from a manufacturing-based economy to a knowledge-based economy. Mr Pearce said the purpose-built Tier 3 Data Centre at Unanderra was on track to open in August.