Population 63,605
Avg. Annual Growth (2006-11) 1.1%
Growth Rate 2006-11 5.4%
Area 154km sq.
Key Industry Sectors Retail, Manufacturing, Health & Community Services
MainUrban Centres Shellharbour, Albion Park, Oak Flats



The Shellharbour Local Government Area (LGA) is located on the Illawarra coastline some 100 kilometres south of Sydney. It lies between the industrial and commercial hub of Wollongong to the north and the quiet tranquility of Kiama to the south. Its boarders stretch from the southern side of Lake Illawarra in the north to the Macquarie National Park in the west and the Minnamurra River in the south.

In terms of area, Shellharbour’s 154 square kilometre territory makes it the smallest sub-region in the Illawarra. The general land-use pattern of the area consists of established urban and commercial areas in the northeast fringed by new residential estates to the south at Shellcove and the west at Albion Park. Much of Shellharbour’s urbanised area is either spread along sparkling coastline, set on hills with spectacular views of the ocean and escarpment or surrounded by peaceful rural land.


Shellharbour is recognised as a major regional growth centre for the next two decades. 2011 Census data showed that the population of the Shellharbour LGA stood at 63,605, up 5.0% since 2006. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates, between 2001 and 2007 the area gained 4,434 new residents, representing growth of 7.4% over the period.

The area’s rapid population growth is expected to continue well into the new Millennium, according to projections calculated by the NSW Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources. Assuming medium level growth over the next two decades, Shellharbour’s population is projected to grow to about 81,500 by the year 2021. This figure represents a 27.0% increase on the area’s current estimated population.

According to 2011 Census data, 23.1% of the population of Shellharbour is aged below 15 years. Despite the fact that the Shellharbour LGA is experiencing much of its population growth from young families with children, this proportion is above that of the State, with 19.3% of the NSW population aged under 15 years.

Over one-fifth of the population (21.8%) of Shellharbour was born overseas. The most common countries of origin included North-western European and Southern and Eastern European countries such as the United Kingdom, Macedonia and Germany. Conversely, only 3.0% of the population is identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

4,075 of Shellharbour's population (6.4%) hold a post-school qualification (consisting of a Bachelors degree or higher). This is two and a half times lower than the total proportion for NSW.

Economic Activity

Much of the traditional economic activity of the Shellharbour LGA revolved around mining, dairy farming and manufacturing. Today, Shellharbour LGA is a vibrant centre for residential and commercial development. New residential developments are not only increasing the area’s population, but also having a dramatic impact on its economy. In particular, the fast pace of development requires a large building and construction industry. Construction businesses account for about one-quarter (23.9%) of all business counts in the area. In the year to September 2012, the value of buildings approved in the Shellharbour LGA totaled $99.8 Million, a 15.3% increase on the September 2011 result. Of this number, $64.9 Million, or 65.0% was attributed to residential building.

The manufacturing sector has lost considerable ground over the last five years. In 2006, there were 3,719 people employed in manufacturing, representing 14.8% of the local workforce. By 2011, the manufacturing industry only accounted for 11.7% of the workforce (3,218 people), a 3.1% pt drop. The retail industry also saw a downturn in the number of people employed during the same time period, falling from 4,488 to 3,526, down 5.0% pts.


Land Resources

The population of Shellharbour will continue to grow rapidly because it is one of the only areas on the coastal plain with room to expand. The Shellharbour LGA owns about 40% of all land deemed appropriate for use in urban development on the Wollongong sub-plain. Commercial and industrial development has boomed over the past decade and will continue as investors realise the benefits of competitively priced industrial land and a skilled and growing work force.

Residential development in Shellharbour is focussed on three main areas: Shellcove, Blackbutt and Albion Park. The most significant residential development in the region is the Shellcove Estate. Located in a scenic valley overlooking South Shellharbour Beach, the estate is part of a massive residential and commercial project involving a 3,200 lot residential subdivision, championship golf course, marina including 350 boat berths, resort complex with hotel and holiday apartment facilities, community recreation facilities and a harbour-related commercial and retail complex.

There are several new residential developments either under construction or just approved. For example, Centenary "Fields Estate" is a new 3,000 lot residential subdivision, which will add considerably to the growing urban area at Albion Park. "Tullimbah Village" is a new 1,100 home-site estate located in the western valley of Albion Park (near Macquarie Pass) which has received approval from Council.

Tourism & Recreation

Tourism and recreation are seen as future growth industries for the Shellharbour area. With the natural advantage which the escarpment, Lake Illawarra, a protected boat harbour and several surf beaches provide, it is little wonder that Shellharbour is a playground for visitors from Sydney and further afield.

Outdoor recreation enthusiasts have the opportunity to enjoy a number of water activities including surfing, swimming, sailing, jet skiing, water skiing, sailboarding, canoeing fishing and prawning. Macquarie Pass National Park, with its lush subtropical rainforest and steep cliffs, is a popular location for rock climbing, bushwalking and picnics.

The Shellcove development, apart from pumping $750 million in to the local economy over the next decade, will provide the impetus for future large-scale tourism development in the area. The proposed marina and foreshore developments will include a hotel, holiday apartments, restaurants, retail and commercial properties and recreational facilities, which will significantly boost Shellharbour’s tourism infrastructure.

Last Updated: January 2013