A multicultural group has hit back at One Nation candidate Mark Latham's claim that Wollongong could become "the Bangkok of the south".
On Thursday Mr Latham made the remark during a visit to the region where he outlined his party's seven-point plan for the Illawarra.
The first point called for a cap on the region's population growth, to preserve its "cosmopolitan" feel.
He said this would largely be achieved by One Nation's plan to slash the immigration intake by two-thirds.
Multicultural Communities Council of Illawarra chair Ken Habak called Mr Latham's remarks "low rent".
"To put it bluntly, One Nation’s statements and policies are divisive and extremely disrespectful to the thousands of migrants who have made the Illawarra their home and made substantial contributions to our economy, our society, our community, and our understanding of what it means to be Australian today.” Mr Habak said.
“The Illawarra has welcomed people from all over the world and, as a community, we will continue to do so.”
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The Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA) southern region manager Keiran Thomas also rejected Mr Latham's idea that the city was full and a population cap was needed.
"UDIA NSW has worked collaboratively with Wollongong City Council, the Department of Planning and Environment, and utility providers to release more than 20,000 new housing lots that will become available in the next few decades," Mr Thomas said.
"This supply will meet demand from the many new residents choosing Wollongong as their home."
He added a range of housing stock was crucial in meeting the demands of a growing population.
"We continue to push for a diversity of choice for the next generation for homebuyers – apartments, terraces, duplexes and traditional houses," he said.
"The recent boom in apartments shows that Wollongong is diversifying and the whole city will be better for it."
The overwhelming majority of residents responding to the Mercury's Facebook page did not agree with Mr Latham either.
"What a load of nonsense," Kim Sattler wrote.
" He wouldn't know what is good for Wollongong."
Deb Woodbury was particularly unimpressed.
"Get out of my town. You make me want to vomit," she wrote.
Erin Nire doubted Mr Latham knew about city's history.
"It's a city pretty much built by an influx of immigrants (of many different nationalities) after World War II, whose descendants still live here," he said.
"Get lost with your uneducated comments."