Why did they close Myuna Bay?

14th September 2019

That is the question posed by Lake Macquarie MP Greg Piper and many others since the closure, reportedly due to concerns Eraring power station's nearby ash dam wall could rupture in an extreme earthquake.

But that argument, as challenged as it has been since March, looks even more shaky after leading Australian geo-technical engineer and retired University of NSW professor Philip Pells issued a scathing report of the technical reports on which the decision was based. The reports were sent to Dr Pells by the Newcastle Herald.

His first bombshell was that the decision was based on a 6.4 or 6.6 magnitude earthquake and not the reported 5.7 or 5.9 magnitude event.

The difference might not seem much until experts like Dr Pells, and University of Adelaide head of physical science Professor Sandy Steacy explain the significance.

A 6.6 magnitude earthquake would have 30 times the energy release of the 1989 Newcastle earthquake which registered 5.4, killed 13 people, injured more than 160, and left a clean-up bill of more than $4 billion after damage to buildings and facilities across an area of more than 9000 square kilometres.

As Dr Pells bluntly put it, if the NSW Government stands by its decision to close Myuna Bay Sport and Recreation Centre due to earthquake risk, "we should also abandon society".

"There would be no road and rail transport, bridges would be down, multiple buildings would have collapsed, the coal fired power stations at Eraring and Munmorah would be substantially damaged, hospitals would be on life support, there would be hundreds of miners trapped in underground coal mines" and the sport and recreation centre "would be the least of our problems", he said.

So again, why did the Office of Sport leap to action in March, when the government was in caretake mode before the state election, after an Origin Energy report about its ash dam?

Conspiracy theorists jumped immediately to the value of the site on the water in a beautiful part of Lake Macquarie. Others claim it's an ideological thing. But Dr Pells' comments provide a possible way out. A little commonsense might be the answer.

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