Shellharbour City CouncilPopulation forecast
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Shellharbour City

Drivers of population change

Shellharbour City is located in the Illawarra region of New South Wales, about 100km south of Sydney. It is bounded by Lake Illawarra and Wollongong City in the north and the Municipality of Kiama in the south. Urban development is confined to the coastal strip, with the Illawarra escarpment forming a natural boundary to westwards expansion. Urban development in Shellharbour is contiguous with Wollongong, and in terms of its role and function it has a strong relationship with the larger regional centre. Rural uses are largely located inland and include agricultural and extractive industries.

Aboriginal people have been in the Illawarra region for at least 30,000 years, where they sustained a population of around 2,000-3,000 people. They were semi-nomadic people who practiced a hunter-gatherer economy based on harvesting plants and animals from the sea, estuaries, lakes and rivers, to the rainforests and woodlands of the coastal plain, escarpment and plateau. Aboriginal people have survived the impacts of European colonisation and maintained their connection to the land through stories which teach knowledge of country and life skills.

Development history

Shellharbour was first settled by Europeans in the early ninetheenth century, but it wasn't until 1859 that it was declared a municipality. Early residential development in Shellharbour was centred on the original village and harbour (now known as Shellharbour Village), from which produce was exported to Sydney via sea. The construction of the Illawarra train line southward to Kiama in the 1880s opened up the area for urban expansion, with settlements developing at Albion Park and Oak Flats. Ever improving transport links, as well as increasing car ownership, opened up the area for tourism, which in turn encouraged further urban growth and economic development. Key factors which encouraged urban growth throughout the twentieth century included the construction of steel works at nearby Port Kembla in the 1950s (providing jobs for new residents), and the construction of public housing estates in Warilla, Barrack Point and Mount Warrigal throughout the 1950s and 1960s.

The Illawarra escarpment is a significant topographic feature which prevents westward expansion of the urban area, particularly in Wollongong. In more recent decades, the role and function of Shellharbour has been to supply greenfield land for the wider Illawarra region. This has resulted in signficant growth and urban expansion, particularly to the west (Albion Park) and south (Flinders and Shell Cove). Population growth rates in Shellharbour have been consistently above the average for the Illawarra region because of the in-migration of young families and couples. They are attracted to the region due to relatively affordable housing, employment opportunities in nearby Wollongong, and the coastal location.

Migration patterns

As part of the wider Illawarra region, Shellharbour's growth has historically been driven by in-migration from neighbouring Wollongong, and to a lesser extent, Kiama to the south. In-migration from the southern and western suburbs of Sydney has also been a factor in population growth and change. In the last few decades Shellharbour has attracted families seeking home owning opportunities in new suburbs. However, like most of regional Australia, the City has lost young adults to larger urban centres such as Sydney for education and employment purposes.

Historical migration flows, Shellharbour City, 2006-2011
Historical migration flows, Shellharbour City, 2006-2011
'Overseas' refers to arrivals only.

Population and household forecasts, 2011 to 2036, prepared by .id the population experts, November 2014.

Note: The migration flows depicted above are historical and do not represent future or forecast migration flows or subsequent council boundary changes. The arrows represent migration flows to the area as a whole and do not indicate an origin or destination for any specific localities within the area. Overseas flow shows overseas arrivals only, based on answers to the census question “where did the person usually live 5-years ago.

Housing role and function

There are two distinct housing markets operating in Shellharbour. The first consists of established suburbs (Albion Park Rail, Barrack Heights, Lake Illawarra, Mount Warrigal, Oak Flats, Shellharbour - Barrack Point and Warilla) with maturing households and limited opportunities for new residential development. These older persons will eventually leave their homes and make way for younger households, including families. In addition, the ageing housing stock and large blocks make these areas more conducive to infill development and intensification. Together, these processes will result in a new cycle of population growth and change in these suburbs.

The second housing market consists of suburbs with greenfield and larger redevelopment sites that attract family households and other "niche" markets such as retirees. These include Flinders, Shell Cove, Rural Balance and Blackbutt - Shellharbour City Centre. In greenfield areas the age profile will typically be much younger than established parts of Shellharbour due to the predominance of young families in the migration profile.

Housing supply

There are significant difference in the supply of residential land within the City that will influence population and housing outcomes over the forecast period. Large greenfield opportunities have been identified in Rural Balance - namely the Calderwood and Tullimbar estates. There is also significant supply in Shell Cove (including the Boat Harbour/Marina) and to a lesser extent, Flinders and Albion Park. In contrast, new residential growth in the established suburbs will primarily be realised through infill development and small scale subdivisions. Despite these differences in residential supply, the overall result for Shellharbour City is modest growth and a forecast population of 85, 260 at 2036.

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