No federal funding pledge for Illawarra development

Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development Jamie Briggs accepts Regional Development Australia's report, Transition Illawarra. Picture: ANDY ZAKELI

Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development Jamie Briggs accepts Regional Development Australia's report, Transition Illawarra. Picture: ANDY ZAKELI

The Maldon-Dombarton freight line, a faster train trip to Sydney and M1 motorway upgrades have once again topped a list of projects needed to revitalise the Illawarra region.

But whether these will ever be funded remains to be seen, with no signs of new funding for the region from federal Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development Jamie Briggs.

After handing out cash for projects in Western Sydney, Ulladulla and Nowra earlier on Tuesday, Mr Briggs made a brief visit to Wollongong to accept a new Regional Development Australia report, Transition Illawarra.

Speaking to politicians and community leaders, he acknowledged the need for road upgrades and the Maldon-Dombarton line, which were highlighted as priorities in the report as the region adapts to industrial and economic changes.

"We're already working with the NSW government on the Maldon to Dombarton line, we have $10 million to work ... on a plan for that, and when that's done we'll see what is the next stage," he said.

However, when or how much the government might commit to these projects was unclear.

This drew criticism from Cunningham MP Sharon Bird, who said the government should reinstate $50 million in funding for the freight line, which was promised by Labor before the last election.

"They're making all the noises, and it's good to do that, but when there are projects that have been prepared by communities to the extent that this one has, that's not enough," she said.

Aside from recommending the transport and infrastructure projects, the RDA report also focused on how the Illawarra could capitalise on its ageing population, proximity to Sydney and growing industries like health, education and technology.

RDA Illawarra chair Eddy De Gabriele said the report was designed to be a "new regional narrative" for the Illawarra.

He also acknowledged the challenges in getting government funding, suggesting private investment or pilot projects could be the way forward.

"We are not going to ask you, minister, for just a cheque, we want to work with you," he said to Mr Briggs.

He said there is a challenge for the dollars, and the Illawarra needs to think outside the box.

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