Office of Sport under fire over Myuna closure

3rd April 2019

Source: Newcastle Herald | By: Max McKinney | Posted: April 3, 2019

The NSW Office of Sport has come under fire on multiple fronts over its handling of the Myuna Bay Sport and Recreation Centre closure, with MPs, union officials and former staff blasting the state government agency. 

About 20 affected staff met with Lake Macquarie MP Greg Piper, Labor sport spokeswoman Lynda Voltz and Public Service Association officials at a meeting in Rathmines on Tuesday.

One employee who had worked at the centre for more than three decades told the meeting the closure was "the worst day of my life". 

"We just want answers," the employee said, reiterating the thoughts of those in the room and among the Lake Macquarie community. 


Troy Wright, the PSA's assistant general secretary, said employees - who have been gagged from speaking to the media by the Office of Sport - were understandably "shattered" by the closure. 

He slammed the agency's lack of consultation with Myuna Bay staff before, during and after the closure, revealing not one staffer from the agency's head office in Sydney visited the centre on Friday to deliver the news to workers it would be closed indefinitely. 

Employees were told they would be losing their jobs at the centre via a telephone conference and then expected to work a full day with primary school students. 

Greg Piper, who labelled the process "appalling", singled out Office of Sport CEO Matt Miller as the one with the most to answer for, saying "the buck stops with him".

"This is one of the darkest times I've had in my time in public life," Mr Piper said at the meeting. 

"The way you've been treated as employees, the way the community's been treated by the Office of Sport and the way the whole issue has been managed, including a complete disdain for the environment if there is actually a genuine problem." 

The Independent MP said he had met with Gladys Berejiklian and spoken to new Sports Minister John Sidoti, who was sworn in on Tuesday. 

Both have expressed their intentions to investigate and Mr Sidoti instructed Mr Miller to call Mr Piper on Tuesday to arrange a meeting with the MP, which is set for Wednesday. 

"This has to be stopped, or reversed," Mr Piper said. 

"I want some action taken. There should be some consequence for the way in which this was done. I have never ever seen anything like it. 

"Their [Office of Sport] actions have been breathtaking in their arrogance."

Lynda Voltz said she had submitted freedom of information requests for documents that led to the closure, but had doubts whether they would be released before parliament returns in May. She said a standing order in parliament could enforce their release if the agency was not forthcoming. 

Ms Voltz questioned why no other government agency other than the Office of Sport had been given the geo-technical report by Origin Energy that outlined the risks associated with its ash dam in the event of an earthquake. 

"If [Origin Energy] has taken this up with the Office of Sport, why have they not taken it up with the mayor of Lake Macquarie Kay Fraser, who I spoke to yesterday and had never heard of this problem at all, and why has it not been taken up with the RMS?," Ms Voltz said. 

She said the government "moved very quick to close this down, but they've been very slow with answers".

"We deserve answers," she said. 

"The premier, at the end of the day, carries ministerial responsibility when there's no minster in the transition of government - there's no problem with picking up the phone. 

"Matt Miller should be coming up and saying what he knew about this, whose instructions he was following and who he notified. 

"It's just not good enough."

The Office of Sport turned down a Newcastle Herald request for an interview with Mr Miller on Monday. 

A spokesperson said on Tuesday night about 15 "ongoing staff" remained on full pay and an Employee Assistance Program representative had been made available on-site last Friday to offer counselling. 

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