The Illawarra appears to be suffering from an identity crisis when it comes to the NSW government's definition of its boundary lines.
This week, the Department of Planning released a discussion paper designed to formulate a 20-year plan for the Illawarra, in which it said the three local government areas of Wollongong, Shellharbour and Kiama made up the region.
"These three LGAs cover 1124 square kilometres comprising a relatively narrow urban area located between the escarpment and the ocean and around the perimeter of Lake Illawarra," the paper read.
In contrast, when laying the ground rules for its $100 million Illawarra Infrastructure Fund following the long-term lease of Port Kembla, the government said the money would be spent within five local government areas: Wingecarribee, Wollongong, Shellharbour, Kiama and the Shoalhaven.
This has drawn criticism from Labor MPs, who believe the fund should be concentrated in the suburbs surrounding Port Kembla and Wollongong.
New Minister for the Illawarra John Ajaka yesterday defended his government's differing interpretations of where the Illawarra was, saying his portfolio had historically included the Shoalhaven and Wingecarribee.
But he said the discussion paper definition was also correct, as it followed on from past plans for the region.
"The three LGAs covered in the Illawarra discussion paper are consistent with the Illawarra Regional Strategy released in 2007 and, as it is effectively updating this strategic planning document, the discussion paper retains this approach," Mr Ajaka said.
"However, the discussion paper makes clear the importance of connecting with surrounding areas, including the Shoalhaven and Wingecarribee LGAs, and as such, is entirely consistent with the approach outlined in the Illawarra Infrastructure Fund."
Kiama MP Gareth Ward denied his government's approach to the Illawarra's boundaries was inconsistent but said he would also support all government departments having the same definition.
"I make absolutely no apology for ensuring that Kiama, Shoalhaven and Wingecarribee were included [in the infrastructure fund] - this was the definition of the previous government in office and the definition of this government," Mr Ward said.
"The Department of Planning is taking its specific focus [in the discussion paper] and I support its right to do this ... but I would support all government departments taking in the five government areas," he said.
Keira MP Ryan Park yesterday said the government was "confused" about the Illawarra and was changing boundaries to suit different situations.
He said it needed to know exactly where the Illawarra was before going ahead with a long-term plan for the region or deciding how to spend the Port Kembla lease funds.
"This is the third biggest region and third biggest city in NSW, so we need to make sure there is a clear definition for future funding so no-one can distort or dilute funding regardless of their political colour," Mr Park said.
"We need to have a clear sense, when we're doing planning documents, about what the region is and what it's not."
Mr Park said he believed the boundaries should follow the planning department's definition.
"I see [the Illawarra] as being essentially from Helensburgh down to Kiama and to include the Kiama areas, you have to include the local government area," Mr Park said.
"I completely concur that this should have been changed under Labor but for this government to be able to deliver, it needs to be consistent.
"If you can't even get this right then what hope do you have?"