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How Illawarra council candidates plan to attract tourists to Wollongong and Shellharbour

 The revitalisation of Mount Keira Summit, cruise ships, a state-funded upgrade of the WIN Entertainment Centre and a boost to Wollongong’s bushwalks and cycling facilities have emerged as top tourism priorities for those running in Saturday’s election.

 Read the article, by Kate McIlwain, in the Illawarra Mercury, 7 September 2017

How Illawarra council candidates plan to attract tourists to Wollongong and Shellharbour            

Tourism on the move: Walking trails, mountain biking, cruise ships, skydiving and an upgrade for WIN Entertainment Centre are in council candidates' sights.

Tourism on the move: Walking trails, mountain biking, cruise ships, skydiving and an upgrade for WIN Entertainment Centre are in council candidates' sights.

In Shellharbour, candidates have honed in on the need to upgrade the Illawarra Regional Airport as domestic flights begin, and have also suggested the establishment of a bush tucker restaurant and an underwater observatory in Shell Cove marina.

Asked by the Mercury to highlight potential tourism infrastructure, Liberal lead candidate John Dorahy was one of many candidates tout the idea of “eco-tourism” in the Illawarra escarpment. 

“[I want to] encourage more eco-tourism into Wollongong and the Illawarra by working with the various stakeholders to ensure an eco-friendly walking trail from Bundeena through the National Park onto Mt Keira and Kiama,” he said.

“There are many short walks but the goal is to combine these together and create a long walking trail across the escarpment that complements the existing Grand Pacific Walk on the coast.”

In a rare agreement with Liberal Party, the Greens also highlighted the need for better walking tracks in the escarpment. Lead candidate Mithra Cox said the council should work with other agencies to develop a “Grand Escarpment Walk” between the Royal National Park and Morton National Park.

For most Labor candidates, the upgrade of WIN Entertainment Centre into a regional convention centre was a top priority.

The $60 million makeover, to be state funded with some council contribution on parking facilities, has for years been identified as an important project by business and tourism groups. Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery has also expressed support for the plan to make the convention centre the second-largest of its type in NSW.

“Wollongong needs a world class entertainment and convention centre to attract world class performers, shows and conferences to our city,” Ward 3 candidate Chris Connor said.

The one contentious tourism issue to get a mention was the use of Stuart Park by Skydive the Beach.

Dapto pharmacist John Mullan said he though the growing adventure tourism business was a drawcard for the region and thought the council “should encourage it as a business and as a means of promoting our area”. But Greens candidate Cath Blakey said she would like to see the drop zone moved to allow the park to be “open to public use”.

For most Shellharbour candidates, the start of regular passenger flights was the highest tourism priority.

However, independent Aboriginal candidate Barry Bird also suggested the establishment of more indigenous experiences.

He said he would like to see an Aboriginal Interpretive Centre at a site near Bass Point, near a registered and protected midden, as well as a bush tucker restaurant and the “possibility of having an overnight Cultural Experience (gathering traditional food, cooking, camping out)”.

Another Shellharbour independent Peter Moran said he wanted the council to progress his idea for an underwater observatory off the breakwater at the Shell Cove marina.

“I have already convinced the Shell Cove Management Committee to fund a feasibility study for this project,” he said.

“I have never been a supporter of the marina due to the environmental impact. However I recognise it is going ahead and am keen to see it be as good as it can be.”

Responses from candidates

The Mercury asked all candidates who have provided an email address to the NSW Electoral Commission to share their ideas about tourism and infrastructure.

  • Question 1: What tourism infrastructure projects would you like to see the council prioritise or lobby for (if they involve state funding) in the next term? 
  • Question 2: What are two or three other capital projects you'd like to emphasise or include in the next council budget if elected?

Responses are listed in the order they were received.

Chris Connor, Labor, Wollongong, Ward 3

Question 1

The most important large capital project that will drive tourism and support increased visitation to our city is the long overdue refurbishment/rebuild of the Entertainment Centre. Wollongong needs a world class entertainment and convention centre to attract world class performers, shows and conferences to our city. The associated spend would increase local employment and create further economic growth. Obviously this is well beyond council’s budget. Our role will be to lobby State and federal governments and private investors to see the project completed.

Question 2

In Ward 3 the completion of the Fowlers Road Bridge is a top priority as the Horsley and West Dapto community have been waiting decades for improved access during flood events. The Labor team will also be pushing for the construction of the Warrawong Community Centre and Library as well as improved lighting around our suburban sports fields.

Kellie Marsh, independent, Shellharbour

Question 1

Kellie Marsh Independents strongly support Tourism opportunities that will attract tourists, whilst generating high local employment growth. 

We will lobby for a contribution from all levels of government for a Permanent Passenger Terminal Building. Inclusive of food outlets and shops at the Illawarra Regional Airport, Albion Park 

Question 2

Included in the next Council budget we would propose to build infrastructure to accommodate a Car Rental business at the Illawarra Regional airport.

Increasing the number of community events including Outdoor cinemas, Twilight Markets, Paddock to Plate Food Festivals

Barry Bird, independent, Shellharbour

Question 1

For some years now I have been involved with Council through it's Aboriginal Advisory Committee on a major tourism venture. This venture is to develop and build an Aboriginal Interpretive Centre at a site near Bass Point (near a registered and protected Aboriginal midden). The proposal is to incorporate a Museum/Keeping Place to house and display (if appropriate) artefacts uncovered during the construction of the Marina as well as other artefacts now in our Museum.

A Bush Tucker restaurant, Cultural Experience (dance, story telling etc) as well as the possibility of having an overnight Cultural Experience (gathering traditional food, cooking, camping out, Corroboree) have all been discussed as part of this.

The potential for such a venture is quite exciting given the cruise ships now berthing at nearby Port Kembla.

Question 2

Obviously the most important capital works project is the construction of the Albion Park Bypass (Tripoli Way) in conjunction with the state government's Albion Park Rail Bypass.

Another major capital works program revolves around flood mitigation, especially in (but not restricted to) the Warilla and Albion Park areas. As part of this, more effective gross pollutant traps need to be deployed at key points where drains enter our natural waterways. Plastic bottles and other rubbish are becoming a major concern in the Lake and in our other smaller streams, clogging the waterways and contributing to flooding in major rain events.

John Mullan, independent, Wollongong Ward 3

Question 1

Essentially Wollongong should capitalize on its strengths in particular the natural beauty and allure of our beaches, the escarpment and the lake. Wherever you look there is bountiful opportunity for activities: surfing, fishing, sailing, boating, cycling, bushwalking, skydiving, scuba diving, hang-gliding and the list goes on.

If council enhances the services and facilities that accommodate and encourage such activity then the city will thrive.  Beaches need better, well-maintained amenities that show visitors that we take pride in what Wollongong has to offer.

If we interlinked all of our communities with a substantial, safe and well serviced cycling path through all of our suburbs, then not only would tourists come to visit but residents could commute to work and use the facility for their own recreation.

The lake is a beautiful natural waterscape that is grossly neglected and underutilized. Again we owe it to our residents to facilitate and encourage their use of the lake.  If we clean the foreshore and improve water quality residents will see the beauty, wildlife will return and tourists will come.

I think Skydive is a great tourism drawcard and the city should encourage it as a business and as a means of promoting our area.

Question 2

Three Capital Works Projects:

  • Work on Fowlers Road Bridge and Fairwater Drive.
  • Flooding Studies that will mitigate against future cut off of Bong Bong Road and roads leading to West Dapto.
  • The cycle way between Belmore Basin and North Wollongong.

Andrew Anthony, independent, Wollongong, Ward 2

Question 1

We support a world class mountain bike facility in the foothills of Mt Keira. There are already a number of informal tracks in the escarpment. If Andrew is elected to council, he is keen to negotiate with the National Parks and Wildlife Service and with private land owners to come to some arrangement to have legal, well maintained mountain bike trails. We understand the concerns of the NPWS and hope that they will at least allow a trial period to monitor any potential adverse impacts on the environment.

Question 2

A completed cycle path around Lake Illawarra. Fast track upgrades to Mt Ousley Road. lobby for better access to the platform at Unanderra station.

Jenelle Rimmer, Labor, Wollongong Ward 1

Question 1

I believe the Bellambi Foreshore Precinct is the next part of our beautiful coastline in need of an upgrade. I am calling for a masterplan and activation strategy, so that we can develop a vibrant public space with recreational activities for the public to enjoy.

Bellambi has a rich Aboriginal history. I would advocate for this plan to incorporate, preserve and teach this history. This is a great opportunity to enhance cultural activities in the area. As both domestic and international visitor numbers grow locally, we need to harness the opportunity to provide locals and tourists alike with enriching experiences.

Question 2

Residents in Ward 1 have long suffered from traffic congestion through the northern suburbs, not only in the traditional morning and afternoon peak periods but also on weekends.

If elected to Council I will advocate for traffic improvements in Bulli, and working on securing an additional entry point to Thirroul.

John Murray, independent, Shellharbour

Question 1

The most important is: we have applied to the State Govt. for $14m funding to develop a terminal and other associated infrastructure at the Illawarra Regional Airport.

This will help RPT (Regular Passenger Transport) progress and flourish for the region. This will facilitate more visitors to the region and make it easier for residents to access other destinations in Victoria and Queensland.

Address outstanding issues  with the RMS to ensure we protect the best interests of residents and build the Albion Park bypass.

Question 2

  • Progress consultation with the community on an undercover aquatics centre.
  • Continue work and planning for the Tripoli Way bypass for Albion Park township.
  • Ensure the new Warilla Library is built.

Leigh Colacino, Liberal, Wollongong Ward 1

Question 1

I think everyone would know by now that I consider tourism one of the main drivers for economic growth for our region. There are three projects Wollongong that are already well on the way to achieving but need to be realised.

1. A Cruise Ship facility at Port Kembla that can service day trips as well as become a turn around Port. That is to say that it could be a home Port where cruises begin and end.

2. The continued roll out of The Grand Pacific Walk.

3. Maximise the opportunities offered at Mt Keira.

Question 2

The three projects I have highlighted above emphasise the natural gifts Wollongong has been blessed with. But, separate to those I think the other capital projects Council should achieve are better and more comprehensive footpath networks and more inclusive bike ways (shared pathways). We need to make sure the residents of Wollongong have the chance to get out of their houses, move around this great city and be safe while doing so.

Michelle Blicavs, Liberal, Wollongong Ward 2

Question 1

My priorities based on what I am hearing in the community are to:

  • Progress the Mountain Biking Facilities
  • Continue to progress the upgrades for Mt Keira Summit
  • Investigate options for Chair Lift or similar from the base (near UOW possibly??) to Mt Keira
  • Continue upgrades to sporting facilities as per the Sports Strategy – these are great tourism drivers!

Question 2

My priorities are to see implementation of the various plans developed by Council including:

  • Stormwater action to resolve flooding issues particularly in South Wollongong, Figtree and Unanderra (Ward 2)
  • Additional funds for sporting field amenities and facilities across the LGA as per the Sports Strategy
  • Warrawong Library and Community Centre

Peter Moran, independent, Shellharbour

Question 1

If elected I would like to see Council progress my idea for an underwater observatory off the breakwater at the Shell Cove marina. I have already convinced the Shell Cove Management Committee to fund a feasibility study for this project. I have never been a supporter of the marina due to the environmental impact. However I recognise it is going ahead and am keen to see it be as good as it can be. An underwater observatory would be a good way of differentiating it from other marinas and increasing the tourism profile of the area.

Question 2

The Albion Park bypass and flood infrastructure in Albion Park and Warilla should be councils highest priorities in the next term. 

Tania Brown, Labor, Wollongong Ward 2

Question 1

Tourism has the potential to be a major economic driver for our region but we need the infrastructure to deliver on that promise.

Upgrading the WIN Entertainment and Convention Centre to a Tier 2 conference facility would bring new business to town and the jobs that come with it.

Council has lobbied the State Government for this upgrade, which includes a multi-storey car park, and if elected I would continue this fight. We have seen that when the WECC is full so too are our hotels and restaurants, and this will grow the local visitor economy.

Question 2

I would like to see a permanent café on Mt Keira so this underutilised site, which is a key destination fortourists, can deliver on its potential.  I commend WCC for their commitment to a container café but we need power and water to this site so that more permanent facilities can be developed. 

David Brown, Labor, Wollongong Lord Mayoral candidate and Ward 2

Question 1

  • A convention centre based at the WEC either via a rebuild or retrofitting onto the existing structure.
  • An appropriate café or restaurant (perhaps including a function centre capacity) at the Mount Keira Summit Park as guided by the forthcoming study into the business case for such an establishment and Council’s adopted vision for the park.
  • A feasibility study into the costs and benefits of rolling out free wifi at all the city’s surf clubs that lack it – more than 60% of visitors to Australia intend to visit a beach.
  • Site identification and concept plans for a new regional museum.

Question 2

  • A doubling of the spend on footpaths / shareways in Council’s budget for next year.
  • Provide an additional three new sets of lights for sporting fields, one each in the north, south and central suburbs.
  • Prioritise targeted extra resources to mitigate flood impact on known hot-spots.

Warwick Erwin, independent, Wollongong Lord Mayoral candidate and Ward 1

Question 1

Focus on smaller tourist “attractions” and provide the basic needs for tourists to visit these great attractions of Wollongong.

The Glow worm tunnel, Old Metropolitan tunnel at the original Helensburgh Station, for example, appearing on many facebook pages and even bring tourists in coaches, where a little work would improve access and a couple of garbage bins would help control the rubbish.

There are many attractions like this in Wollongong, on the coast and escarpment. Projects that Wollongong City Council has committed to be ignored, one being the walk from The royal National Park along the escarpment all the way down to Morton National Park.

Question 2

Helensburgh Library, Foot Paths all over the  Wollongong LGA, community facilities upgrades.

Ann Martin, Labor, Wollongong Ward 3

Question 1

I would be really excited to see the mountain bike trail at Mt Keira, a gondola or chair lifts up Mt Keira or up the hill to Bulli tops, zip lines from the Sublime point lookout, with two or three cabins, to the Gateway, the tunnels and Hill 60 with an all abilities viewing platform looking wonderful, upgraded walking trails in the escarpment , perhaps with Eco lodges, and just for something entirely different, Movie world, including post production film studios in some of our former bluescope buildings in Port Kembla.....and encourage whale watching and the cruise ships into port Kembla.

Question 2

Finalise and get glennifer brae operational, Finish the Fowlers road bridge, a cafe at the gallery and at the Bot Gardens, and, of course Hill 60!

Greg Petty, independent, Wollongong Lord Mayoral candidate and Ward 1

Question 1

None. The current council has well provided these projects. Destination Wollongong is funded to provide the basic service. But membership should be open to all businesses, big or small. Unfortunately, cost overruns on various projects has left a huge financial impost on Council leaving a contribution by Council far greater than the usual split 50-50. It’s time to get back to basics of roads, rates and rubbish. Footpaths and kerb and guttering are infrastructure too, let’s put the money where it is needed, in the suburbs, not the CBD. Why is the Helensburgh Library still in a demountable after 35 years.

Why has the Helensburgh Community Centre basketball floor been condemned – and it’s been that way for up to 8 years. Why should the local playgroups or sporting groups be unable to use the floor? The answer is simple, if it was in the City, it would have been fixed by now. Successive Councils have taxed the northern suburbs and redirected the money to the CBD. This must stop September 9 by electing Councillors that support local projects.

Question 2

  • Footpaths and kerb and guttering outside the CBD
  • Footpaths and kerb and guttering outside the CBD
  • Footpaths and kerb and guttering outside the CBD
  • A permanent location for the Helensburgh Mens Shed

Janice Kershaw, Labor, Wollongong Ward 1

Question 1:

My ALP Colleague for Ward 1 Jenelle Rimmer has covered the main Tourism project for Ward 1, however the main one for the city would have to be ‘Mt Keira Look Out’ and surrounds.

The unfortunate issue is that Council is responsible for only the ‘Look Out’ area and the surrounding area is State Recreational land and the responsibility of the State Government.

Council has been through the consultation process and adopted a plan for the site, however for the best outcome we should be dealing with it holistically. The State Government needs to encourage NSW National Parks to take a more proactive role and develop their own plans, for uses and upgrades, so it is a world class tourist site.

Question 2

I want to ensure that our patrolled beaches are accessible to all residents.

Therefore I want to make our beaches disable friendly both with access to the beach but also the facilities such as toilets should be disable accessible.

Cameron Walters, Liberal, Wollongong Ward 3

Question 1

The Illawarra Liberal Team will make it a priority to deliver a permanent cruise ship port that will boost local tourism after successfully advocating for passenger liners to sail into Port Kembla. 

Our first visit by the Royal Caribbean Cruises’ Radiance of the Seas was a resounding success, injecting $890,000 in the local economy.

If elected, our team will work with business and lobby government to push our agenda on why the Illawarra is the number one destination for cruise liners.

Question 2

  • Major beautification project of Port Kembla CBD. This will help local businesses there to flourish and prosper
  • Major upgrade of Dapto CBD opening up more commercial spaces for more local cafes, small bars and retail shops to set up. Dapto is a well known brand and we should use it to our advantage. 

Mithra Cox, Greens, Wollongong Lord Mayoral candidate and Ward 1

Question 1

What benefits the residents of Wollongong also brings tourists. We have a wonderful coastline, the best set of rockpools and ocean pools in the world, and a glorious escarpment with patches of temperate rainforest. They can be a playground for residents and visitors.

We should develop the  Grand Escarpment Walk. Investment in paths along the Escarpment would create an iconic 5-day walk between the Royal National Park and Morton National Park. Collaboration with National Parks and Wildlife Service and with private landholders would allow us to complete the missing links on their land and build infrastructure such as hikers’ huts, camping facilities and water supply. We could also encourage walkers to use Wollongong as a base for their trip.

Question 2

  • pedestrian infrastructure such as footpaths and pedestrian crossings, especially in the walking catchments of public schools and near ships and transport links;
  • fund the excellent but unfunded 2014-2018 Bike Plan.

Cath Blakey, Greens, Wollongong Ward 2

Question 1

  • Lobbying for changes to the South Coast line to help residents and improve visitor access. There must be lifts at Unanderra Train Station, the stop for Nan Tien Temple. There must be more passenger services on the South Coast line, including more frequent stops at the stations that give access to the Royal National Park and our magnificent beaches.
  • Lobbying to re-open improve the paths on the escarpment, including the Mt Keira Ring Track and the Ken Ausburn Track.. Improving escarpment access will capitalise on the unique #BushwalktheGong tourism potential of our escarpment city and take pressure off the Sublime Point track.
  • Locate the new Skydive the Beach office in Thomas Dalton Park, so Stuart Park is open to public use.

Question 2

  • Install solar panels on all Council buildings to produce clean energy and cut the running costs of our libraries, community centres and depots;
  • Ensure that all schools have footpaths to them so kids can get to school healthily and safely;
  • Connect the missing links in an East-West bike routes between the coast and the suburbs, particularly from the coast to the university and Figtree via Gladstone Avenue.

Theresa Huxtable, Greens, Wollongong Ward 2 

Question 1

  • More access to the escarpment from railway stations. especially in  the north up to Sublime Point - there could be other walks up to the top from stations south of Austinmer as well as from Stanwell Park. We need to get more residents and visitors into our beautiful escarpment.
  • A public bus that takes people to Byrarong Park so they can walk to the  top of Mt. Keira.
  • More green walks for residents to connect better to the harbour and the beach from the city and surrounds.
  • Work with State Government to increase the number of carriages on Sydney/Kiama  trains, enabling more tourists to reach the south coast by train.

Question 2

  • More bicycle and pedestrian tracks around the city  and beaches;
  • Investment in renewable energy for all Council buildings - more tree planting to create better shade in the CBD
  • Planning should be for the longer term planning, not day to day . We must plan for a sustainable city where everyone wants to live, and where the council is recognised as a trusted leader.

Leon Fuller, Greens, Wollongong Ward 2

Question 2

Implement the Urban Greening Strategy, to beautify the city and reduce the heat island effect.

Jamie Dixon, Greens, Wollongong, Ward 3

Question 1

Lake Illawarra is the real tourism drawcard of Wollongong’s southern suburbs. The Lake Management Plan will  require infrastructure, policy, and implementation. There must be more access points to the Lake to make sure residents and visitors can access it and use it for recreation. Bringing back boat hire facilities would be good. And we need to fill in the gaps in the cycleway around the lake.

The Port Kembla revitalisation project is an exciting opportunity. It will need changes such as underground power cabling, and revised traffic management to achieve its best potential. Port Kembla has a glorious beach, one of the world’s most beautiful swimming pools, and great views from the neglected Hill 60.

The draft Urban Greening Strategy calls for tree planting, street furniture, and creative thinking. If this plan is carried through, it will make Wollongong an attractive haven for visitors and residents alike.

Question 2

  • A large scale solar farm to move council further towards a zero emission target.
  • The resumption of council-led affordable housing construction in infill areas. With a push to complete any currently stalled projects, by council employed staff if necessary.

Julie Marlow, Greens, Wollongong Ward 3

Question 1

  • Completion of the walkway/cycleway around Lake Illawarra, incorporating elevated boardwalk in order to conserve areas where wetland already exists or might exist in the future as a result of sea level rise;
  • Significant improvement to  Lake Illawara’s water quality with state-of-the-art stormwater and sewer management in its catchment;
  • Working with Coomaditchie Artists Cooperative and other local Indigenous artists and community groups to establish art and signage for appropriate areas around Lake Illawarra;
  • Working with Illawarra Birders and other local bird experts to protect and enhance the Tallawarra Ash Ponds as bird sanctuary.
  • Restoring Windang Peninsular Heritage Park.

Question 2

  • Better and cheaper flood mitigation combined with environmental protection -- make green infrastructure a priority in stormwater management, both for upgrades and new works;
  • reduction of hard surfaces to hold water and help prevent flooding.

John Dorahy, Liberal, Wollongong Lord Mayoral candidate and Ward 2

Question 1

I will explore the opportunity to increase the Eco-tourism opportunities around an Illawarra Escarpment Walking Trail that shows off the beauty and history of this great land.

  • Bundeena to Stanwell Tops
  • Stanwell Tops to Mt Keira
  • Mt Keira to Mt Kembla
  • Mt Kembla to Mt Murray and Macquarie Pass
  • Macquarie Pass to Jamberoo and into Kiama

We will work with NPWS, the Aboriginal Council, Tourism committees of Councils to make this attraction World Class and eco-friendly.

From beautiful sandstone cliffs to magnificent rainforest to enchanting views of the coast and districts making up Wollongong and the Illawarra, we are blessed to call this region home.

It is incumbent on Councillors to announce to the world you are welcome to visit and see firsthand the magnificent heritage and natural beauty on show along our walking trails and onto the coast.

Cable Car opportunity: an additional eco-tourism opportunity I will investigate and engage with Councillors, the State MP’s and Federal Members to how Wollongong can install a Cable Car (Gondola) at Mt Keira as a starting point with the desired outcome being a stop off at North Beach.

Vicki Curran, independent, Wollongong Lord Mayoral candidate and Ward 2

Question 1

As a priority and in line with Councils Fudiciary responsibilities, Council needs to commit to building a Mutlipurpose Building of high architectural design quality surrounding Stuart Park Village Green that accommodates new Surf Club, function centre, restaurants and kiosks and office and storage space for Sky Dive, Fitness and surf school operators. This facility would pay for itself by income from Commercial Leases and be a solid investment for future generations to enjoy. Additionally Council could then create the water features, landscaping and Village Green to further enhance the best coastal Crown Land Reserve in NSW. 

I would also prioritise Mt Keira- Mt Kembla tourism infrastructure projects, Hill 60 and the Tunnels which have enormous tourism potential. 

Question 2

in coming budgets I would redefine Sportsgrounds and facilities so that they are considered assets and this would then see the necessary priority and ongoing funding to our Sportsgrounds that we currently have a enormous backlog of works to complete. 

Stormwater - we need to stop reviewing and remodelling start implementing new stormwater mitigation to decrease the intensity and frequency of flood events. 

Marianne Saliba, Labor, Shellharbour

Question 1

Finish the Shell Cove Harbour and Marina. This asset will be a massive draw card for the Shellharbour community. It will bring people from all over the region and beyond and produce an income for council. The growth at the Illawarra Airport is also an important issue and the provision of the permanent passenger terminal. Council will need to seek funding from State and/or Federal Government. The airport may be come the gateway to our city and at the same time council will receive income from incoming passengers, through passenger landing fee. The income council makes helps to relieve the pressure on rates. 

Question 2

We want council to continue to resurface roads in Shellharbour city area as needed as an ongoing commitment. Tripoli Way to meet up with Albion Park Rail Bypass with on/off ramps northwards for residents living in the west of the city. New libraries for Warilla and Shell Cove.