Shellharbour Mayor Kellie Marsh has delivered ratepayers an iron-clad guarantee: work on the stalled Shell Cove marina and boat harbour will begin by the start of 2013.
Tenders for the boat harbour's first stage are due to be called tomorrow.
But after years of delays, deferrals and missed deadlines, the announcement is likely to be met with scepticism in some parts of the community.
After a briefing of councillors last night, Cr Marsh and general manager Michael Willis signed off on a controversial $20 million funding deal with Shell Cove project manager Australand.
The agreement would set up a safety net fund, giving the council the security it needed to set the $158 million project's seemingly rusted wheels in motion, Cr Marsh said. "This is a serious business plan that has been laid out, and it's game on.
"The marina is going to instantly bring jobs in construction and we have written into our contract with Australand that whoever gets the tenders ... will employ a minimum 50 per cent local residents on the project."
Delivering the marina was a key election commitment for the city's three Labor and two Liberal councillors.
The first stage will include breakwaters and earthworks for the massive new boat harbour.
Work is due to begin within nine months of tenders being called, with contracts awarded before Christmas.
Late last year, six of the city's seven councillors voted to support the shortfall funding agreement, giving the Mayor and the general manager power to seal the deal.
The proposal came after the council's $10 million application was snubbed in the first round of the Regional Development Australia Fund.
Successful second-round projects are due to be announced later this month. Independent Cr Peter Moran, a staunch marina critic, controversially wrote to the funding body urging it to send the money elsewhere.
Regardless of the grant outcome, the Australand deal means the company will set aside $20 million to be used if and when the project's costs outstrip its income.
Forecasts predict Shell Cove will go into deficit in late 2016, peaking at about $10 million in 2017.
The boat harbour cost has blown out from $30 million to $158 million since the development was proposed, with about $25 million already spent.
A $70 million project profit is forecast, to be split between the council and Australand.
Cr Marsh yesterday moved to quell fears the cost of the project would affect other council services, and said it would deliver enormous employment and tourism benefits.
"This development will not come at the cost of any service or any facility in Shellharbour City," Cr Marsh said. "The residents have my absolute guarantee."