NSW government’s multimillion-dollar Port Kembla cash splash

A NSW government fund aimed at injecting life into Port Kembla has been given a $4 million boost – but there’s a catch.

The latest round of the Port Kembla Community Investment Fund (PKCIF), which opened on Wednesday, will deliver extra cash for individual projects that activate and enhance the suburb.

The $99 million PKCIF was set up in 2016 and is tied to the long-term lease of Port Kembla. After an initial annual allocation of $2 million, the fund was expected to provide $1 million every year.

However, Illawarra parliamentary secretary Gareth Ward has revealed the fund’s latest round, round three, would have a funding pool of $4 million. It’s not additional money, rather future funding being brought forward.

“It just means instead of spending a million dollars every year, this will be round three for the next three years,” Mr Ward told the Mercury.

“We’re bringing it forward because I’m sure you'll appreciate net present value – money in today’s terms – is worth more than in three year’s time.

“This allows us to do bigger projects, to have greater influence and make a greater impact on the Port Kembla community than simply the $1 million round.”

Mr Ward said he made the “strategic decision” to bring the money forward. The process will be reviewed next year, after the state election.

The Illawarra Business Chamber (IBC) and Port Kembla Chamber of Commerce were “enthusiastically supportive”, he said.

Executive director Adam Zarth said the changes were in line with those the IBC had advocated for. 

“Our advice to the government was that the fund needed to be expanded in terms of both its total envelope and the maximum grant size. These changes will ensure the economic benefits from projects funded in round three will now be realised in a much shorter timeframe,” Mr Zarth said.

PKCIF cash supports environmental, public infrastructure and precinct activation projects.

Under round three, funding of between $10,000 and $2 million will be offered.

Applications close on October 19.

An information session will be held at the Port Kembla Leagues Club from 6pm on Monday.

Labor Wollongong MP Paul Scully welcomed the opening of the PKCIF’s latest round, but renewed his call for the government to ensure its departments and agencies were ineligible.

Round two of the fund saw the Department of Planning and the Environment Protection Agency awarded $44,000 for a report on heavy metal contaminants from industrial activity in Port Kembla.

“The PKCIF should be dedicated to funding local community projects in Port Kembla, not an a la carte, all-you-can-eat buffet for government departments and agencies,” Mr Scully said.

For details about the PKCIF, visit: nsw.gov.au/pkcif