Votes are in on Illawarra, Shoalhaven boundary change

The NSW government may have officially declared the Shoalhaven to be an important part of the Illawarra, but it seems many residents do not agree with the region's extended boundary lines.

Earlier this week, Minister for the Illawarra John Ajaka used the launch of a new page on the government's regional website to say he had "drawn a line in the sand about the definition of the Illawarra".

However, of 463 readers who responded to a Mercury poll, more than 77 per cent rejected the decree that Nowra, Ulladulla and the beachside towns just north of Batemans Bay were now in the Illawarra.

Readers have taken to social media to share their thoughts, with many indicating they believe there is a political motivation for the change.

"If it's always been part of the Illawarra (which it hasn't) why do they feel the need to make a big deal out of it now?" online reader Helen said.

"To justify giving away Illawarra money to the Shoalhaven, that's why!"

Likewise, Facebook commenter Graham Mulquin said it was "just another way of giving funds to a larger area [like the] $100 million Illawarra Infrastructure Fund from the long-term lease of Port Kembla".

But Mr Ajaka said these views were nonsense, because the Restart Illawarra fund had always been intended for five local government areas - four of which are now considered to be the "real Illawarra", plus Wingecarribee.

The region's ever-shifting boundaries have been the subject of heated debate in recent years, with state government departments taking different views on exactly where the region is.

The NSW Department of Local Government's definition still includes all five LGAs and - until Kiama MP Gareth Ward successfully pushed for the Shoalhaven to be included in the Illawarra Regional Growth Plan this January - NSW Planning had counted just three.

Mr Ajaka said he had noticed "some confusion" over his region's boundaries when he became minister and began trying to standardise the definition.

"The feedback I received from many was that they genuinely saw the four [LGAs] as the Illawarra," he said.

"From now on you will see me referring to the four LGAs and you will see a lot more government departments doing so as well."

However, there remains discrepancies: the Illawarra train line still ends at Waterfall and, last year, the state education department extended the Illawarra South East region west to the Riverina.

Mr Ajaka said he was speaking to other ministers about making one defined Illawarra region, but said some labels - such as the name of the rail line - had "well known, well recognised" historical links and would only change with time.

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