Toronto Motor Registry

8th September 2015

Mr GREG PIPER (Lake Macquarie) [7.35 p.m.]: I again draw to the attention of this House an issue that has Lake Macquarie residents upset and perplexed—that is, the proposed closure of the Toronto Motor Registry. Correspondence to my office on this one topic has been off the charts, with residents overwhelmingly opposed to the decision announced on August 19 to relocate the office to the Warners Bay Service NSW centre. The registry is due to close in mid-October, just over a month from now. At the moment there are few other topics my constituents want to talk about. With no exaggeration, almost everywhere I go people in the electorate stop me to express their disappointment at the decision and ask me to do everything I can to have it reversed. Facebook posts on the issue on my page—and I say this without a hint of hyperbole—have gone viral, with my normally quite modest following exploding. One post urging people to sign a petition was shared more than 600 times. It almost rivals the Facebook exploits of the King of Kiama, the member for Kiama sitting opposite.

This is a hot button issue in my local area. In just over two weeks, a petition circulated among more than 50 local businesses has received more than 10,000 signatures. I will be presenting that petition to this House next week so that this important issue can be debated in this House. The concerns of people in my electorate arise from a well-founded perceived lack of suitability of the Service NSW site at Warners Bay to meet the needs of people in western Lake Macquarie. This is due to a number of factors, including poor public transport access, restricted parking, lack of proximity to other services, and travel distance from the southern suburbs of the electorate.

The Warners Bay centre is not in what most people would describe as the main business and retail district of the town; it is in a commercial precinct which, while quite large, comprises mostly bulky goods retailers, service outlets, sports centres and light industrial workshops. In other words, it is not the sort of place where people can combine a trip to the supermarket, post office, bank, library, doctor, dentist or Centrelink office with their visit to the motor registry, as they often do now at Toronto, where all those other services are in close proximity. The Warners Bay Service NSW centre is poorly serviced by public transport. The hub bus route for Warners Bay passes along The Esplanade, some two kilometres to the south. Very few buses pass the commercial precinct where the Service NSW centre is situated.

In contrast, Toronto is a hub for buses from all points of western Lake Macquarie and surrounding suburbs, and many of them run right past the motor registry. There is a direct bus link from Fassifern railway station a couple of kilometres away and ample parking at and nearby the registry for those who use private transport. Residents from Coal Point, Wangi Wangi, the Morisset Peninsula and Cooranbong, for example, have been poorly served by this decision, particularly if they rely on public transport. Many constituents have reported parking problems and extended waiting times at the busy Warners Bay Service NSW outlet, and they fear these will be exacerbated by an increase in clientele following the closure of motor registries at Toronto and Belmont. In addition to these inconveniences, residents from the southern part of my electorate will face a round trip of about 60 kilometres to visit their closest Service NSW centre.

I acknowledge that the Minister for Finance, Services and Property has engaged with me on this matter and spoke to it in question time on 27 August. I also acknowledge the willingness of staff from his office and Service NSW to meet me and discuss issues relating to the closure. I have heard their reasons for deciding to close the registry; but, with respect, the arguments are unconvincing and show little appreciation for local needs and for the interest of communities. The willingness to engage came, unfortunately, only after the announcement, with no prior consultation with the local member or the community.

I support the concept of Service NSW. I congratulate the Government on the initiative. However, I cannot understand why, when the Government was deciding which registries would be changed over, a central, accessible location like Toronto was overlooked for conversion to a Service NSW centre. Western Lake Macquarie is a large and growing area that warrants its own Service NSW presence, and Toronto qualifies as a suitable location on all criteria. Toronto is very much the hub for suburbs and towns on the western side of the lake, offering complementary access to government services, as well as retail and other businesses. I realise that difficult decisions on registry closures have been made all over the State, but I believe the case for retaining and converting the site at Toronto is strong. I urge the Minister and the Government to reconsider the decision.

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