THE first sod has been turned for the Shell Cove marina and boat harbour, the initial step towards putting Shellharbour City on the tourist map.
Albion Park-based company Coastwide Civil was announced late last year as the successful tenderer for stage one of the works.
Coastwide Civil marked the start of construction last Friday, as excavators began digging the boat harbour site.
Stage one of the $150 million contract works is expected to take about a year to complete.
It is the first of four major contracts to be issued for the harbour's construction.
Coastwide will do major excavation to complete the first phase of the harbour's development.
The final stage of works is expected to be completed by 2020.
The boat harbour and marina, part of the final phase of the Shell Cove project, have been in planning for almost 30 years.
Councillors approved the long-delayed marina's construction using a revised financial option in accordance with project manager Australand.
The $500 million development will comprise a 300-berth marina, a retail and commercial centre, a residential development of up to 1000 dwellings, a technology park, a public boat ramp and boat-servicing facilities.
Shellharbour Mayor Marianne Saliba said she was "very proud" to see the benefits for the community, in both the construction and employment opportunities it would create.
"This will put Shellharbour City on the tourist map," she said.
Cr Saliba understood that some residents had long had the attitude of "believe it when I see it" with regard to the marina.
"Well, here it is," she said. "They can have confidence that the project is on its way."
Australand's Shell Cove development director Glenn Colquhoun described it as a proud and momentous occasion, saying it had been a lot of hard work over many years.
He said works being visible to residents would reassure them.
The time was right, Mr Colquhoun said.
"I've always been confident that the project will happen."
Councillor and former mayor Kellie Marsh cited the importance of "putting food on the table" and boosting tourism.
"There's been a lot of angst from the residents, but this is a wonderful thing for the community," she said.
"We have delivered it; this council has stepped up to the plate."
The project is considered to be the largest of its kind undertaken by a local government in Australia.