Wingecarribee Shire Council has defended its claims that a cycleway on the Illawarra Infrastructure Fund shortlist will create 650 new jobs.
The project is a four-kilometre stretch that would link the towns of Mittagong and Bowral, joining sections of cycleway that already exist.
It is one of three projects from Wingecarribee Shire Council to make the shortlist - there were four overall from the area - and is seeking funding of $3.6 million of the $5 million it will cost to build.
Keira MP Ryan Park has raised questions about the project's inclusion for funds from the Port Kembla port lease, claiming it made the list because Infrastructure NSW (INSW) had to ensure projects from Wingecarribee and Shoalhaven were included along with Wollongong, Shellharbour and Kiama local government areas.
An INSW spokesman rejected that claim, saying it was certainly a possibility that one of the five council areas in the Illawarra could have ended up with no properties on the list.
"The independent assessment panel acknowledged the project demonstrated an improvement in safety, had potential for economic growth and is the completion of an existing bicycle strategy," the spokesman said of the cycleway's inclusion.
Mr Park's other concern was the council's claim that the cycleway would create more than 600 new jobs.
"I doubt whether any form of scrutiny would be able to justify a cycleway getting an extra 650 full-time jobs," Mr Park said.
Mike Pepping, the strategic and assets manager for Wingecarribee Shire Council, said the jobs figure took into account the flow-on effect to tourism, accommodation, restaurants and other areas that the cycleway would bring.
He said a cycleway linking the two towns would further enhance the region's image among cyclists.
"It is a bit of a cycling destination now and there is the higher potential for tourism," Mr Pepping said.
"We've got things like the Highland Fling which is a large cycling event, which gets about 2000 cyclists. We get a lot of cyclists coming down the freeway or through Picton and they'll come to the Southern Highlands and then go back.
"There are three main cycling events held throughout the year. Then you've got road races and late last year we opened up the refurbished velodrome, which is probably the best outdoor velodrome in regional NSW, so there's quite a lot of events happening out there now."
There have been complaints that the Wingecarribee area should not be eligible for the infrastructure fund as it is not directly connected with the port.
Mr Pepping pointed out that the port rail line went through Moss Vale and that six years ago the council signed a memorandum of understanding with the Port Kembla Port Corporation to create an "inland port" at Moss Vale.
"We've got 640 hectares here at Moss Vale, which was identified as having potential for an inland port to provide inland storage and all sorts of things, with Port Kembla because it has limited land to store things for a long period of time.
"We've slowly been working towards promoting it and putting in infrastructure. There is a strong linkage between Port Kembla and Wingecarribee and that's why we feel very strongly about the leasing of Port Kembla and the money being invested up here for employment purposes."