POLL: Illawarra boundary move raises ire

The llawarra's ever-flexible boundaries have shifted once again, thanks to a successful push from Kiama MP Gareth Ward to include the Shoalhaven in NSW Planning's definition of the region.

On Friday, Mr Ward revealed the planning department's Illawarra Regional Growth Plan - which will outline a 20-year vision for the region - would be expanded to include the Shoalhaven, in addition to the Wollongong, Shellharbour and Kiama local government areas.

The NSW government's inconsistent demarcation of the Illawarra's boundary lines has drawn criticism from Labor MPs in the past - especially when the $100 million Port Kembla lease fund was stretched over five local government areas instead of three.

However, Mr Ward said it made sense to include the southern LGA in a future plan because it would help boost housing, economic and environmental connections.

"The definition of the Illawarra has always included the Shoalhaven and I think it was sensible to include it in this plan," he said.

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"Many people consider the Shoalhaven to be its own unique region but I think, when it comes to planning for services and growth, as well as job generation and employment, there are greater synergies for us with the Illawarra."

However, Shellharbour Labor MP Anna Watson said the Shoalhaven should not be considered part of the Illawarra as it "has nothing to do with our economy".

She said the Shoalhaven had only been included to "shore up [Mr Ward's] patch" and would result in funds intended for the three Illawarra LGAs being spent in the Shoalhaven instead.

"Economically, we are going to be missing out," she said.

Likewise, Keira MP Ryan Park has previously accused the government of changing the region's boundaries to suit different situations and dilute funding.

Shoalhaven Mayor Joanna Gash also criticised Mr Ward for his "premature" announcement about the expansion last week, saying it was "rude in the extreme" not to advise her council about the expansion.

However, Mr Ward said he had since phoned the mayor to apologise for not including her in the announcement, blaming his oversight on the holiday season.

Consultation on the Illawarra Discussion Paper received more than 100 submissions.

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