Population 92,812
Avg. Annual Growth (2006-11) 1.0%
Growth Rate 2006-11 5.0%
Area 4,530 km sq.
Key Industry Sectors Health Care and Social Assistance, Retail Trade and Public Administration and Safety
MainUrban Centres Nowra, Bomaderry, Milton/Ulladulla, St Georges Basin, Culburra, Sussex Inlet



The Shoalhaven Local Government Area (LGA) is the southern most sub-region of the Illawarra. It’s 4,660 square kilometre area stretches from the rural township of Berry in the north some 85 kilometres south to the harbourside township of Ulladulla. The region is bounded by the Illawarra Escarpment to the west and the Pacific Ocean to the east. Its topography combines mountainous terrain, flat coastal plain, bays, inlets, lakes and rivers.

The spectacular natural environment is a major attraction of the Shoalhaven area. Within its boundaries are 109 beaches, 300,000 hectares of National Park and State Forest land. Jarvis Bay and Kangaroo Valley are popular natural tourist attractions. The Shoalhaven River provides a significant natural water resource to Shoalhaven Water and Sydney Water.


Since the 1970’s the Shoalhaven LGA has experienced strong population growth. According to the 2011 Census, the population was 92,812 and had a growth rate of 5.0% since 2006. The Shoalhaven’s average annual population growth rate during the 1990’s has consistently remained above the state average. From 2006 to 2011, the average annual growth rate of the Shoalhaven was 1.0%.

Projections by the NSW Department of Urban Affairs and Planning predict that the Shoalhaven’s population will continue to grow strongly over the next twenty years, but the rate of growth will plateau. Forecasts based on medium level growth indicate that the population of the Shoalhaven will reach 113,500 by the year 2021, a figure which would represent an increase on the current estimated population of around 22.2%.

The 2011 Census revealed that the Shoalhaven had a 36,646 person strong labour force. Of this number 33,846 persons were employed. The most significant job-generating industries in the Shoalhaven are health care and social assistance, retail trade and public administration and safety. Combined these industries account for approximately 37.5% of the entire workforce.

Economic Activity

Manufacturing, defence, tourism and agriculture represent the core income generating economic activities for the Shoalhaven LGA. The agricultural sector remains an important economic activity in the region. The gross value of produce in the 2001 season was $34.7M from such rural activities as dairy farming, nursery products, seeds and cut flowers.

The region’s retail sector is thriving, with a number of major retail and supermarket chains such as Kmart, Woolworths and Coles already operating in the area and considerable new investment taking place.

According to the ABS, as of 2011 there were 6,748 business counts operating in the Shoalhaven LGA. This healthy growth in new business is largely due to the strong emphasis placed on economic development by Shoalhaven City Council, which has successfully encouraged a significant number of firms to relocate or set up in the area.


Location and Lifestyle

The Shoalhaven’s beautiful natural environment plays a central role in the quality of life of the local community. The region’s temperate coastal climate, rich array of native flora and fauna, many natural attractions, thriving commercial and retail sectors and abundance of raw materials make the Shoalhaven an appealing place to live and work.

Regional Manufacturing Centre

The Shoalhaven has developed a dynamic manufacturing industry. With a total of 317 manufacturing business counts throughout the region in 2011, the Shoalhaven has more than doubled the size of its manufacturing industry over the past 25 years.

The provision of inexpensive, high-quality serviced industrial land and a proactive Council have been important factors in attracting manufacturers to the region. The success of the Shoalhaven’s manufacturers is also the product of a regional emphasis on product and service quality and strong export performance. There is quite a diverse range of export oriented products produced in the region including yachts, chemicals, paper, food products and building products.

Thriving Defence Industry

Many internationally recognised Defence contractors operate in the Shoalhaven including Kaman, Boeing, British Aerospace, Air Target Services and Air Affairs. The Department of Defence operates a number of facilities in the Shoalhaven LGA, the largest being HMAS Albatross just south of Nowra. In all, the Defence industry contributes approximately $60M in annual salaries and 2000 jobs to the local economy. The Defence Department’s capital expenditure over the next few years is estimated to be around $150M.

The Albatross Aviation Technology Park (AATP) currently being developed at HMAS Albatross is going to provide a specific location from which aviation technology enterprises can service domestic and export markets. The AATP presents a great opportunity for investors, with about 30 new industrial sites, all with access to airfield facilities.

Shoalhaven Education Precinct

The education and training services and facilities available in the Shoalhaven represent a valuable asset for the region. The Shoalhaven Education Precinct - a new strategic development combining the efforts and resources of Shoalhaven City Council, the University of Wollongong, the Illawarra institute of Technology and the State Government - is providing the region with new economic development opportunities. At the centre of development is a new joint campus for the University of Wollongong and Illawarra Institute of Technology at Mundamia, to the west of Nowra.

The existing University Campus at Berry and TAFE Colleges at Bomaderry and Ulladulla provide students and industry with the opportunity to learn and train locally. The region already possesses a strong skill base in trades and clerical personnel and the expanding educational facilities will provide an enormous boost to the pool of tertiary-trained persons residing in the Shoalhaven.

Natural Resources

The Shoalhaven has a very strong natural resource base including rich agricultural land, forests and vast waterways. Although dairy farming remains the dominant agricultural activity in the Shoalhaven, new value-added resource based industries are emerging. Strong growth potential exists in niche industries such as ecotourism, aquaculture, berry farming, viniculture, organic farming and turf farming.


The Shoalhaven has the perfect attributes to be a very popular tourist destination – warm climate, an abundance of natural attractions, a myriad of outdoor recreational options, close proximity to the huge domestic markets of Sydney and Canberra and a healthy tourism infrastructure. It is no wonder the region is continually the most visited tourist destination in the state. Plenty of opportunity exists for development, particularly within the accommodation sector where there is a shortage of 3-5 star hotel establishments.


The firm economic base provided by manufacturing, defence, agriculture, education and tourism will continue to grow. However, there is an increasingly export-oriented culture within the Shoalhaven’s business community, which has directed new industry focus on to niche and value-added products for export.

Last Updated: January 2013