THE population of the Shellharbour Local Government Area is projected to increase by 23,300 by 2031, and appropriate housing, employment and infrastructure must be established to meet such growth.
The population of the Illawarra region will reach 353,000 people in 2031 - an increase of 65,000 people - according to the latest projections from the state government.
In 2011, Shellharbour's population was 66,050. According to the projections released by the Department of Planning and Infrastructure, a high fertility rate and "old population age profile" are the key drivers of said change in Shellharbour.
"Our new planning system will for the first time specifically recognise and support long-term strategic planning - helping ensure we have the housing, employment and infrastructure that we need alongside growth," department acting deputy director-general Andrew Jackson said.
In the Illawarra by 2031, 18 per cent of the population will be under 15 years of age, 60 per cent will be 15-64 and 22 per cent will be at least 65.
"The changing make-up of the community will mean the planning system needs to be able to provide a range of housing choices," Mr Jackson said.
"Clearly, we will require more accommodation specifically designed for the needs of older people."
The government is currently exhibiting its Illawarra Discussion Paper on some of the challenges facing the region and wants public feedback.
The paper, on exhibition until November 11, identifies the need for an additional 31,300 homes and 24,250 jobs in the Illawarra by 2031.
The Illawarra Regional Growth Plan, when finalised, aims to lay the groundwork to support the region's growth.
The Property Council of Australia recently hosted the NSW Minister for Planning and Infrastructure, Brad Hazzard, who visited Wollongong to provide an overview of the Illawarra Regional Growth discussion paper.
Illawarra Chapter chair David Laing said since the release of the 2006 Illawarra Regional Strategy, greenfield delivery rates were about 34 per cent lower than the amount required to meet the detached dwelling projections of 760 dwellings per year.
"The results showed that the government released enough zoned land in this time period but servicing issues and policy impediments have prevented it coming to market as quickly as anticipated," Mr Laing said.
"There are however clear signs of life in the region and we need to capture the optimism that is seeing product begin to move to market."
Shellharbour councillor and Throsby Greens candidate Peter Moran recently noted the presence of the steelworks, a heavy industrial base and highly skilled workforce meant the Illawarra was well-placed to take advantage of renewable energy infrastructure.
"To construct the infrastructure to allow that to happen needs a highly skilled, industry savvy workforce - we have an advantage in those," he said.