The ambitious golf resort and hospitality hub proposed for the old Huntley Colliery site could create jobs and an economic boost to sustain the Illawarra’s fortunes into future, the University of Wollongong’s top economist says.
Lending his support to the billion dollar plans unveiled on Wednesday, which include links with UOW, Port Kembla born Deputy Vice Chancellor Professor Alex Frino said boosting tourism would help the region recover from the mining and manufacturing down turn.
“The trajectory set by both steel manufacturing and mining suggests that they will no longer be significant employers in the region – and I argue that they are no longer a significant employer in the region,” he said.
“Contrary to popular belief, and according to statistics provided by WCC and sourced from Census, tourism is a very small sector in the Illawarra, employing less than eight per cent of its 120,000-strong workforce.
“We are not a significant tourism destination nor have the number of people working in the tourism-related sector grown very much in the last decade.
“From experience, I can also tell you that the education sector is even smaller than the tourism sector.”
Standing atop on of the region’s defunct mining pits, Prof Frino said the region needed something more substantial than the slowing construction boom now that ““steel and mining is all but gone”.
“The biggest generator of money in the region, sadly, is the 20,000 workers that every day leave the region and then come back at the end of the day with a pay packet,” he said.
“Sadly, since returning to the region, I have heard many talk about the future of the region being a dormitory suburb for Sydney. This is a sad vision, and one I do not accept.”
He said the golf course, hotels, housing and other resorts facilities could, if approved and built, offer “a fascinating new trajectory for the region”.
“In it’s current planned form, the Silkari Resort will include over $600 million in construction activity,” Prof Frino said.
“It’s very interesting to me that the ashes of an old coal mine like Huntley would provide the foundations for the golf resort that will rise from the ground over the next couple of years.”