The NSW government will pay Wollongong residents even more money to leave town under changes to its much-criticised regional relocation grants.
The scheme, introduced in 2011, paid home owners in the "metropolitan" cities of Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong $7000 if they moved to a regional area.
Under changes to be announced by Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner today, people will be paid $10,000 to relocate to country NSW for work and the $7000 scheme will be extended to renters, as well as home owners.
The government will also close a controversial loophole which allowed Wollongong residents to receive the grant for crossing the Windang Bridge into Shellharbour.
Under the original scheme, two Illawarra households moved less than two kilometres - from Windang to Lake Illawarra and from Haywards Bay to Albion Park Rail - while 52 families moved from Wollongong to Shellharbour during the scheme's first 15 months.
Now grant recipients will need to move at least 100 kilometres away, which the government said would stop any "misuse of the schemes in areas that border metropolitan and regional boundaries".
Mr Stoner said the new jobs grants would encourage skilled city workers to move to regional NSW.
"The new [$10,000 grants] will boost regional development by filling skills gaps in local economies," he said.
"The new scheme will be tied to secured employment and unlike the existing regional relocation grant, will not be restricted to home owners."
Workers must relocate to the country for at least two years and the jobs must be unable to be filled by the local workforce.
Additionally, Mr Stoner said allowing renters to access the $7000 grants would alleviate rental stress in Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong and help city-dwellers to enter the housing market in cheaper regional areas.
The cost of both schemes will be capped at $10.4 million in the 2013-14 financial and will be allocated on a first-in, first-served basis.
When the regional relocation scheme was introduced two years ago, it was heavily criticised by Illawarra Labor MPs and the business community for encouraging Wollongong residents to leave from an already struggling area.
At the time, the city's population growth rate was among the slowest of all regional cities in Australia and was half that of neighbouring Shellharbour.
Asked yesterday how the changes to be announced today would help to improve Wollongong's economy, a spokesperson from Mr Stoner's office said only that the relocation scheme was "designed to assist people when moving to regional areas and areas of the Illawarra are eligible under the scheme".
"The government has a host of initiatives, including the Illawarra Infrastructure Fund and the Illawarra Region Innovation and Industry Fund, that have been specifically introduced to help boost the region's economy," the spokesperson said.