Petition: Myuna Bay Sport and Recreation centre

6th June 2019

Mr GREG PIPER (Lake Macquarie) (16:30): 

On 29 March 2019, the day the Premier announced her new Cabinet and only days before the Government would come out of caretaker mode, the New South Wales Office of Sport, in a morning raid, directed that the Myuna Bay Sport and Recreation Centre close and that all visitors and staff be off-site by 6.00 p.m. Some of those affected are with us today in the gallery, and they are still very upset by pretty much everything about this decision. I thank those community members for coming. Matt Miller, the CEO of the New South Wales Office of Sport, made the decision. The action and the way it was done was breathtaking in its arrogance, and extremely audacious, given that a new government and Minister—who is with us today—were only days away.

Students from Bathurst were bundled out and an international waterskiing tournament that was to run over the weekend was cancelled. Some 200 people associated with that event were blindsided, and the local Myuna Bay Waterski Club was left without a venue. While not a consideration, it was ironic and poignant that at almost the same time as the contingent from New Zealand, which included residents of Christchurch, was being treated so outrageously, the Premier was in Christchurch supporting our New Zealand friends following the devastating and senseless mass shootings.

The action was taken on the basis of a risk assessment prepared by Origin Energy on the Eraring Power Station dam wall. There was no immediate threat to anyone. That non-peer-reviewed report stated that if a major earthquake were to occur, the power station's ash dam wall may be breached and could therefore threaten life at the sport and recreation centre. Origin Energy based its assessment on a 5.7-magnitude seismic event. To try to get a handle on what that means, Geoscience Australia says the likelihood of a 5.9-magnitude event within a 100 kilometre radius of Eraring is one in 5000 years or greater. In fact, not a low risk but an extremely low risk. Mr Miller took an action that upturned the lives of employees who were, in my opinion, treated disgracefully. Full-time and permanent employees would be looked after with special leave provided and redeployment to other centres where possible, while longstanding, loyal and well-used casual staff were largely just collateral damage; a few weeks of pay, and then they were on their own. That is not good enough.

The decision shocked those already at the centre. In the case of waterskiers from around the State and New Zealand, it cost them significant time and money. Thousands of school students, in particular, who were booked in for the year were left disappointed. Frank Calabria is the CEO of Origin Energy, and therefore does not escape criticism. Origin Energy was hung out to dry when, on the day of the closure, it released a media statement thanking the New South Wales Office of Sport for acting expediently on its request to close the centre. Wow! I have to say I am pretty sure Origin Energy expected a public statement—that was never to arrive—from the New South Wales Office of Sport owning up to this. Origin Energy had forecast to me some months earlier that it may need to look at relocating the tennis courts and swimming pool, but there was no indication that the so-called "nuclear" option was on the table. Indeed, there was no further contact with my office, even though we had always had a good relationship. There was no contact with Lake Macquarie City Council about the potential impact on the council park and no contact—or limited contact—with Roads and Maritime Services about the main road. There was no discussion with the Eraring Power Station Community Consultative Committee, which is a bit ironic, and no reference to anyone about the devastation that would be done to the lake itself if such a loss of ash occurred. For the record, during the time Origin Energy was considering the risk to the integrity of this wall it had an application before the Department of Planning to increase the ash holding capacity of the dam. I suggested to both Mr Calabria and Mr Miller that amongst other things they owed the community and those affected an apology for the handling of this matter.

The Minister is here and I recognise this blindsided him. After all, even the head of the Department of Premier and Cabinet was not advised that this was happening. We are, however, looking to you, Minister, for the right result for our community and for your staff, and that means not lightly acceding to Origin Energy's request to mitigate its risk at the expense of a greatly loved community asset. I agree with the Minister's decision to have the matter considered by the NSW Dams Safety Committee and in the end we should accept their advice. Hopefully that will see the Myuna Bay centre reopened. If not, the way in which this was planned and executed by the Office of Sport and Origin Energy will remain a disgrace and should stand as an example of arrogance toward and disrespect of government process and of staff and community.

I thank the nearly 20,000 people who have signed the petition calling for the centre to be reopened, for Origin Energy to be required to take action on its site to protect off-site assets, including the lake, and for the Government to invest in further upgrades to the centre. Minister, it is over to you.

Website: Read full Parliamentary debate

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