Piper furious over Myuna Bay closure

29th March 2019

The Office of Sport has closed the centre "effective immediately" over concerns about Eraring power station's ash dam.

Power station operator Origin Energy said in a statement on Friday an engineering review of the dam commissioned last year and completed in early March found while it was stable, "this could be affected in the event of a major earthquake".

It said it contacted the NSW Office of Sport to discuss the findings of the review, because the centre sits downhill from the ash dam. 


"On our advice, the Office of Sport has agreed to close the centre to ensure the safety of clients and staff," the statement said.

A spokesperson for the Office of Sport said it would work with people who use the centre and have upcoming bookings to relocate to other venues nearby.

Lake Macquarie MP Greg Piper said he was "angered" by the announcement of the closure, saying he met with Origin Energy representatives six months ago and was told that the review was precautionary.

He said the representatives told him Origin Energy would fund the relocation of facilities in low-lying parts of the site if they were found to be at risk.

"Origin said this problem would arise only in the event of a 5.9-magnitude earthquake, but the company would carry out work to further strengthen the existing wall to provide greater surety in the event of any catastrophe," Mr Piper said.

"It seemed quite clear the situation could be managed.

"Almost overnight, the centre is being closed down.

"Are we going to start closing down every other building or community facility that might be at risk from a 5.9-magnitude earthquake?

"None of this makes sense.

"We were blindsided."

Mr Piper also asked why the Office of Sport had agreed to the closure while the government was still in caretaker mode and days away from naming a Minister for Sport.

"They've thumbed their nose at normal processes being allowed to apply," he said.

"What I want is to see a stay put on this until there is proper consultation with the community and the local member.

"I want the minister to make the call.

"This is not something that's a small administrative decision, like changing the brand of paperclip.

"This is an important decision that will affect people's lives."

An Origin Energy spokesperson it had "acted quickly to notify the Office of Sport about new information" in the review.

"We were pleased with the speed at which the Office of Sport responded to our advice," the spokesperson said.

"While we believe our advice and the subsequent decision was the right course of action, we acknowledge that this means we weren't able to fully update the local community and State Member of Parliament before today's decision."

Origin Energy said it had completed engineering studies on improvements to the ash dam wall and was implementing "a range of measures" to improve the structure to "align to a worst-case scenario earthquake".

"Origin is now developing detailed designs for works to strengthen foundations, buttresses and embankments around the ash dam," the spokesperson said.

"These works are estimated to take about 18 months to complete and we will continue to discuss future plans for the Myuna Bay Recreation Centre with the Office of Sport while these works are conducted.

"We will also ensure we keep the local community, through the council, and the local member fully informed."

An Office of Sport spokesperson said while the likelihood of an earthquake may be low, it "takes the safety of staff and clients very seriously and have decided to act on advice to close the centre effectively immediately".

"Myuna Bay Sport and Recreation Centre has been a stronghold in the Lake Macquarie community since 1944 and we know that many in the community hold fond memories of the centre and its facilities," the spokesperson said.

"We will be working with all who use the centre and have upcoming bookings to relocate to other nearby venues.

"The safety of our clients, staff and community members is, and always will be our priority."

Origin Energy executive general manager of energy supply and operations Greg Jarvis said he understood the significance of the centre to the community and the inconvenience the closure caused.

"While we understand that the likelihood of a serious seismic event is low and that a breach of the dam wall is therefore very unlikely, we are taking the only responsible measure by acting on the basis of a worst-case scenario," Mr Jarvis said.

"Origin will always act extremely cautiously in any health or safety matter and in the best interest of the community."

Origin Energy said it had offered to compensate the government and had started negotiations.

A Lake Macquarie City Council spokesperson said the centre was an important recreational facility for the community and wider region.

"From sport development camps and weekend escapes to community and group getaways, school camps and seniors programs, the Myuna Bay facility holds a special place in the hearts of people from across NSW," the spokesperson said.

"Council acknowledges that the NSW Office of Sport and Origin Energy have made this decision in the best interests of the community, and we look forward to working with them both to enable the facility to reopen as soon as possible."

Origin Energy said the closure didn't affect the operation of the power station, which it has said it plans to close by 2032.

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