Minister for the Illawarra John Ajaka has admitted something needs to be done about reducing the commuting time between Wollongong and Sydney.
Mr Ajaka was at a luncheon for the Southern Chapter of the Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA) yesterday.
Property Council Illawarra chairman David Laing asked the minister what could be done to reduce the travel time Sydney, given it was a target identified by Infrastructure NSW.
‘‘I for one have always been a supporter of the F6,’’ Mr Ajaka said.
‘‘I understand it will be something that we will continue to look at at the right time.
‘‘It shouldn’t take you two hours to get from here to Sydney. Like you, I’ve been caught in those traffic jams and they’re not fun.’’
While not promising funding for the long-mooted F6 extension, Mr Ajaka said he would argue ‘‘over the cabinet table’’ for as much funding for the Illawarra as he could get.
Mr Ajaka’s speech focused on the region’s future. He identified diversifying the regional economy as a ‘‘key priority’’.
He said this was becoming increasingly important as the region’s traditional manufacturing base continued to wind down.
‘‘Despite the challenges that the Illawarra is facing to its historical industries, the region is exhibiting real strength in new and emerging industries such as advanced manufacturing, education and training, ICT, and health and aged care,’’ Mr Ajaka said.
He said the region boasted a number of competitive advantages, including the University of Wollongong, connectivity to other markets through Port Kembla and many tourism opportunities.
‘‘Indeed, I believe that tourism represents a key opportunity for this area.
‘‘The Illawarra has unrivalled natural beauty and its close proximity to Sydney means there is a real opportunity to increase both domestic and international tourist visitation to the area.’’
He said successful bids for a share in the $100 million Illawarra Infrastructure Fund would be announced later this year. The winning projects were expected to create substantial value for the region.
‘‘These projects will help to drive economic growth and job creation through their construction phase and into the long term by unlocking and enhancing industries in the region,’’ he said.
‘‘The leveraging effect of these projects will deliver substantially more than $100 million.’’