Stakeholders in a unique project to plan the development of the Illawarra will hear today that the ability to simulate the future has just become more powerful.

Vision Illawarra was founded as a response to the necessity for local governments to contribute to regional planning without having access to all relevant data and information or adequate modelling tools.

Vision Illawarra is the first regional platform in Australia that provides access to consistent and regularly updated data on transport, land use, economic growth demographic change. Furthermore, its unique regional growth simulation allows for dynamic interaction between land use, economic, demographic and transport models.

The stakeholders are divided into three groups: the Illawarra’s three councils; utility providers for water, energy and waste collection; and data providers such as the Illawarra Regional Information Service (IRIS), the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Transport for NSW, and other state government departments.

These stakeholders will learn today that the regional growth model has received fine-tuning this year to allow it to run two main future scenarios – ‘the downturn’ and ‘the bright future’.

‘These scenarios try to depict possible futures for the region based on realistic but contrasted socio-economic assumptions,’ SMART director Professor Pascal Perez said.

‘Stakeholders from Councils had already told us that it was one thing to access data that tell them what has just happened, but – as planners – they really needed to know what might happen in the future.’

In addition to the two main economic scenarios – one negative and one positive – the team at SMART has developed two sub-scenarios for the region, one where the Albion Park Bypass is not built, and the other where population growth is accommodated in Wollongong’s northern suburbs, rather than simply at land release areas in the south, such as West Dapto.

All of these scenarios are illustrated in a dashboard for subscribers that presents the modelling in an easy-to-understand, visual manner.