The NSW government says its unpopular decision to privatise Port Kembla's port has now been vindicated, after the new operators this week revealed plans to dramatically increase the capacity of its first new outer harbour wharf.
Kiama MP Gareth Ward said the proposal, to allow larger vessels to enter the outer harbour and increase bulk cargo handling almost fourfold, "proved all of the doomsdayers wrong".
"This investment will lead to more jobs and opportunities for the people of the Illawarra, and this is something we said - and something we were ridiculed for saying - when we announced we would lease the port," he said.
Minister for the Illawarra John Ajaka and NSW Treasurer Mike Baird agreed the new expansion proposal justified the government's decision to lease the port.
"We have always said that a new partner would bring additional capital to invest in the future growth of the port and it's clear that fresh eyes have recognised an opportunity for significant expansion and development," Mr Baird said.
"The benefit of a private partner is that it is not constrained by the state's balance sheet and it is much better placed to make the required investment in the growth of the port.
"This will bring jobs and investment to the Illawarra, while delivering long-term benefits to the NSW economy."
Mr Ward hit out at Illawarra Labor MPs, saying they had been "protecting union mates" in opposing the port privatisation and needed to admit they were wrong.
However, Keira MP Ryan Park said that didn't make sense, as the bulk of the expansion works were approved and started under a Labor government.
"It's great news that this expansion is going on, but to attribute that just to the leasing of the port doesn't make sense because the proposal for the outer harbour was well on track under the previous government," he said.
Mr Park also urged the state and federal government to ensure further funding for Illawarra roads and rail infrastructure was available if the expansion went ahead.
"We all want to see our port grow. But if that's growing and driving profits, then we also need to have the appropriate investment in infrastructure because otherwise extra trucks and trains will impact our residents," he said.