Myuna Bay Sport and Recreation Centre

7th May 2019

Mr GREG PIPER (Lake Macquarie) (16:36): Madam Deputy Speaker, I too congratulate you on your wonderful elevation to the role and I look forward to working with you. It is great to see the member for Canterbury. I wish I could congratulate all members who either are newly elected or have returned to this House. But I have a very pressing matter that I need to bring to the attention of this House—that is, the closure of the Myuna Bay Sport and Recreation Centre on 29 March. Today I tabled a petition signed by more than 18,000 people who are shocked, angered and bewildered by a decision to immediately evacuate and close the Myuna Bay Sport and Recreation Centre on 29 March, while the Government was in caretaker mode. Myuna Bay is operated by the Office of Sport and over the past 70 years it has welcomed hundreds of thousands of visitors from throughout New South Wales and overseas. Just days earlier I had welcomed visitors from around the State and New Zealand to Myuna Bay for a five-day international water skiing event. But days later, midway through the event and on the day that our Premier was in Christchurch for a memorial service, people were ordered off the site and the entire Myuna Bay complex was shut down.

This order came from the then CEO of the Office of Sport, Matt Miller, who had responded to a report prepared by Origin Energy, which owns and operates the Eraring Power Station to the west of the Myuna Bay site. I note that Mr Miller has since retired. The report was an Origin Energy risk assessment of its own site that suggested a magnitude 5.7 seismic event—an earthquake—could damage the wall of the power station's ash dam, causing fly-ash slurry to inundate parts of the sport and recreation centre. Origin Energy actively pushed for and encouraged Mr Miller to close the Myuna Bay site. There was no discussion with the community, the council, Roads and Maritime Services or me, nor with the Office of Premier and Cabinet. There was no discussion or consultation at all and no thought apparently that advice should be sought from the public works department or the New South Wales Dams Safety Committee.

It needs to be remembered that there was no immediate risk that a dam wall was about to collapse, and nothing to suggest that it could do so any time soon. The basis for the decision was that the wall might be compromised if a large earthquake was recorded within a 100-kilometre radius of the Myuna Bay site.

Geoscience Australia, the pre-eminent authority on seismic events, states that the likelihood of such an earthquake is a "one-in-5,000-years or longer" event. I am totally aware that that does not mean it could not happen tomorrow, but it does mean that the risk is so infinitesimally small that the Office of Sport's decision could only be regarded as a gross overreaction. Yet the Office of Sport's Chief Executive Officer made a decision to immediately close Myuna Bay Sport and Recreation Centre at the urging of a company which produced a report that had not even been peer?reviewed. On the back of this non?peer?reviewed report, everyone at an international sporting event was told to pack up and evacuate the site immediately; thousands of bookings were cancelled and the lives of employees were turned upside down.

There was no public announcement from the CEO or the department, and there has been none to this very day. Very interestingly, last year Origin Energy applied to extend the size of its ash dam at Eraring. Notwithstanding the fact that many believe Origin should be reducing and recycling this fly ash, it is seeking to store more. Worryingly, at the time Origin was wanting to increase the size of its ash dam, it was in possession of initial risk reports that indicated that the existing dam could have catastrophic impacts on the community and the environment if there were a major earthquake. While Origin was behind closed doors asking the Office of Sport to close down the Myuna Bay centre because a one-in-5,000-year earthquake might break its ash dam wall, it was contemporaneously applying to increase the volume of the very same ash dam.

As previously mentioned, Origin Energy had not spoken to the RMS about the threat posed to the users of Wangi Road, it had not spoken to anyone about the fact that such a catastrophe would absolutely destroy the ecology of Lake Macquarie, and it had not spoken to the Government, the Minister or other experts. But somehow it managed to close down a valuable and very much-loved community facility without warning. Apparently it had spoken only to Mr Miller and NSW Sport and Recreation staff. It was an outrageous decision and the people in my community—including more than 18,000 of them who signed a petition within just two weeks—agree. They are livid, and so am I.

To their credit, the Premier and her new Minister for Sport, Multiculturalism, Seniors and Veterans, Mr Sidoti, have been quick to establish an independent review of the Origin Energy report and the decision taken by the Office of Sport. We are hopeful that the review brings some common sense to this entire fiasco. I have faith in the New South Wales Dams Safety Committee to do so. Regardless of the outcome, the way in which the decision to close the recreation centre was made has disrespected staff, the community, our New Zealand guests, the local council, the Premier and Government Ministers. I hope Origin Energy fixes this mess very quickly.

Website: Read the Parliamentary Hansard here

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