Myuna Bay Sport and Recreation Centre
28th July 2020
Mr GREG PIPER (Lake Macquarie) (18:45:52): On 29 March last year while the Government was in caretaker mode, the New South Wales Office of Sport evacuated and closed Myuna Bay Sport and Recreation Centre on the basis of a report prepared for Origin Energy, which owns the neighbouring Eraring Power Station and associated ash dam. That report indicated that if a significant rain event was followed by a significant earthquake, the ash dam's north?eastern wall could collapse and send a wave of coal?ash slurry onto the sport and recreation centre site, which could be hosting and housing perhaps hundreds of children at the time. I do not wish to go over too much old ground, but I have not moved far from my original position that the decision and implementation reflected poor judgement, and that the risk posed to the centre was so remote that it did not warrant the reaction it received. I was not alone. Almost 20,000 people signed a petition that was debated in the House last June.
The Lake Macquarie community is still angry that visitors, including international guests and staff, were treated so badly. Since then two independent reports found that although the risk posed to the centre was extremely low, the elimination of any risk by closing the Myuna Bay camp was supported. Regardless of my views on the original decision, both I and the Lake Macquarie community had to accept that call and find a way forward. To their credit, sport Minister John Sidoti, acting sport Minister Geoff Lee and the Government have been supportive of my efforts to resolve the issue, which I very much appreciate. Last December Minister Lee was able to negotiate an agreement with the Office of Sport, Origin Energy and others that would see a new sport and recreation centre built nearby. Among the key features of that agreement was the requirement for Origin Energy to pay for a new centre to be built on land it owns and to undertake urgent repairs to the ash dam wall as it still poses a risk to the lake, the local environment and Wangi Road, and, just as importantly, for the existing Myuna Bay site to remain in public hands.
On that note, I am hoping that the site will be added to the neighbouring Lake Macquarie State Conservation Area and managed by NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service. I note that the Minister is in the chair. I wish to discuss that matter with him at a later date. While I stand by my views on the closure, the negotiated agreement pointed to a good outcome. Furthermore, I have since had a number of meetings with Origin Energy and am pleased that it is moving forward with significant stabilisation works on the ash dam wall. It is also moving to increase the amount of ash that is recycled, which is an extremely important outcome and one that the community will support. Once again, I wish to raise that matter with the Minister for Energy and Environment because I believe he will be supportive of any measure that reduces the amount of ash placed in landfill. More notably, last week I attended a media event with the acting sport Minister Geoff Lee, the Office of Sport CEO Karen Jones and representatives from Origin Energy to announce that a preferred site for the new centre had been found. The proposed site is a 21-hectare waterfront site at Eraring, about a kilometre south-east of the original Myuna Bay centre. The site adjoins a number of rural residential blocks and what was formerly Eraring Public School. It is larger than the original site so it can accommodate all the facilities that the original centre had and be designed in a way to minimise the impact on neighbours.
Understandably there are some Eraring landowners who are concerned at the impact the new centre may have on their properties. To their credit, representatives from the Office of Sport and Origin Energy visited all of the immediate neighbours of the site before the public announcement to flag that an extensive public consultation process was about to begin. It is fair to say that a number of neighbours were not pleased about the announcement but most expressed a willingness to be part of the design process. That is very encouraging because it is the intention of all involved to deliver a new facility that becomes an asset to the Eraring community and is actually designed in such a way to protect the existing amenity of its neighbours.
I also acknowledge that Origin Energy will provide a long lease on the land and remains committed to funding construction of the new centre. By and large the broader Lake Macquarie community is happy to see this project moving forward. The demise of the original centre is a bitter pill for many to swallow, but it is pleasing nonetheless that Lake Macquarie will be the site of the first new sport and recreation centre in New South Wales in some 40 years.
Mr MATT KEAN (Hornsby—Minister for Energy and Environment) (18:50:46): I thank the member for Lake Macquarie for his continued advocacy on behalf of his community. I note the concerns raised by the member and his community regarding the closure of the sport and recreation facility and make it clear the Government was focused on protecting people and property, keeping them safe but also we are focused on delivering a great outcome for his community. I thank the member for inviting me to visit him recently and see some of the great work he is doing in his community, particularly when it comes to installing solar batteries across his electorate. I also note there are a lot of things we have to work through, including how we can create a circular economy using the coal ash from the Origin Energy ash dam up there to provide products like cement and other things like that. I thank the member for Lake Macquarie for his continued advocacy for our environment and his community. and I look forward to working with him into the future.
Website: Read the Parliamentary Hansard here