The Port Kembla steelworks will have to adapt under a state government plan for the region to become carbon neutral. Picture: Anna Warr

The Port Kembla steelworks will have to adapt under a state government plan for the region to become carbon neutral. Picture: Anna Warr

A green focus is a new twist for an Illawarra plan

A green focus is a new twist for an Illawarra plan

Infrastructure
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The latest state government plan for the Illawarra is an example of how times have changed.

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The latest state government plan for the Illawarra is an example of how times have changed.

In previous plans - and there have been a lot of them - the objectives hardly changed from one to the next. They all wanted faster trains to Sydney, they all wanted to see more space found for housing and more jobs.

They also tend to mention big-ticket items like the Maldon-Dombarton rail line, acknowledging their crucial importance but not offering any concrete timeline for construction - or cash.

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To be fair, these regional plans are never about the cash. It tends to be based on what they want, rather than what they can afford.

But there is something very different about the Draft Illawarra Shoalhaven Regional Plan 2041 that was released on Monday, and that is how much focus the environment gets.

It was always there in previous plans, but tended to be limited to a few pages at the back end.

In the version designed to take us through the next 21 years, there is a strong environmental focus due to climate change - which the plan mentions no fewer than 15 times.

One of these objectives is to hit a net zero emissions target by 2050, which won't be easy given the presence of a big steelworks at Port Kembla.

There's also the suggestion to use increased vegetation in waterways to trap carbon and a move to a "circular economy", which is really just a fancy way to say "find new uses for stuff rather than just chucking them away".

Water security is an objective of the plan as well, though some would suggest that allowing mining to take place under water catchment areas isn't a great way to secure the water supply.

The draft plan even goes so far as to recommend increasing the tree canopy in Wollongong and Shellharbour centres.

All in all it's a clear acknowledgement that it is no longer enough to just plan for jobs and housing any more.

These days, you have to plan to make sure you have a future in the first place, before you start planning for it.

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