Judy Stubbs could run her Bulli-based planning and research business from almost anywhere in Australia, but her office's proximity to the beach, bush and Sydney Airport has kept her in Wollongong.
The university lecturer and affordable housing guru reluctantly moved to the Illawarra for her husband's work more than 20 years ago, and has since become one of the region's biggest advocates.
"About five years ago, it ended up that almost all of my work was out of the region ... so I had to decide whether to stay here or to go to Sydney," Dr Stubbs said.
"It would have made a lot of sense to leave, but I just loved the area so I decided to buy the Old Post Office in Bulli and stay here."
Making that decision has allowed the keen opera singer and composer to embrace the arts-minded community of Wollongong's northern suburbs, and she also regularly cycles along the coastline.
Despite her own glowing praise for the city, Dr Stubbs conceded her experience of Wollongong was different to the perception of participants in the Property Council's liveability poll.
She said she had recently done research showing Wollongong's jobs expansion had not kept pace with regions like the Hunter, and also pointed to systemic issues affecting job seekers.
"One of the biggest issues is that it's a polarised area, so the northern suburbs has single digit unemployment ... but in the southern suburbs around the steelworks, people are still suffering from the downturn in manufacturing and heavy industries," she said.
However, it wasn't all doom and gloom, with sectors like health, IT, retail and the services industry booming.
Dr Stubbs said promoting the region's attributes, planning reform and greater flexibility from Sydney companies employing Wollongong commuters would help solve some of the problems that had affected perceptions of the region.