Government rejects claims over relocation scheme

Windang Bridge had separated Shellharbour City Council area (top), which qualifies as a regional area, and metropolitan Wollongong City Council.

Windang Bridge had separated Shellharbour City Council area (top), which qualifies as a regional area, and metropolitan Wollongong City Council.

The NSW government has rejected claims it halved the distance required to receive a $7000 grant under the Regional Relocation Scheme because the scheme was unpopular with the public.

The scheme was introduced in 2011 and promised people who moved from Sydney, Wollongong or Newcastle to regional areas would receive a $7000 grant.

But the scheme has had a troubled history with some Wollongong residents getting the money by moving a few kilometres to Shellharbour. That prompted a condition that people had to move at least 100 kilometres before they could qualify.

Last week, Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner reduced the distance to 50 kilometres but with the caveat that people could not move to a neighbouring council area.

In the three years since the introduction of the scheme, 3466 families have been paid a total of $24.27 million.

This is well under the government's original expectations - it had initially set a target of 40,000 regional relocation grants over four years.

Shadow minister for the Illawarra Ryan Park has long been a critic of the scheme.

"I cannot believe that the NSW Liberal government is screaming they have no money for health and education investment yet here they are wasting $7000 to supposedly help people move from Wollongong to Nowra," he said.

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