Sports Minister John Sidoti orders independent review of shock decision to close Myuna Bay Sport and Recreation Centre

GRATEFUL: Lake Macquarie MP Greg Piper said he appreciated Minister John Sidoti's speedy response to the Myuna Bay issue. The pair met at the centre this morning. Picture: David Stewart
GRATEFUL: Lake Macquarie MP Greg Piper said he appreciated Minister John Sidoti's speedy response to the Myuna Bay issue. The pair met at the centre this morning. Picture: David Stewart

NSW Minister for Sport John Sidoti has promised a "frank and fearless" independent review of the shock decision to close Myuna Bay Sport and Recreation Centre.

Results of the review are expected in six to 10 weeks.

The centre was closed without warning on March 29.

The catalyst was an engineering review of the Eraring power station ash dam commissioned by Origin.

That review found the ash dam wall, although stable, could fail in an earthquake.

The NSW Office of Sport made the decision to immediately close the facility.

The office's CEO Matt Miller said he was bound by occupational health and safety requirements to act on Origin's advice and close the site.

Member for Lake Macquarie, Greg Piper, met with Mr Sidoti outside the centre this morning to discuss its future.

They spoke to representatives from Myuna Bay Waterski Club, Morisset Rotary, the community, and the Public Service Association which represents the centre's employees.

"I'm very grateful to Minister Sidoti who has responded quickly to this issue and has already ordered an independent review of the decision taken by the Office of Sport and Origin Energy," Mr Piper said.

LAST WORD: The message board outside Myuna Bay Sport and Recreation Centre since its closure. The closure is set to be debated in parliament. Picture: David Stewart

LAST WORD: The message board outside Myuna Bay Sport and Recreation Centre since its closure. The closure is set to be debated in parliament. Picture: David Stewart

"Minister Sidoti said he wanted a first-hand look at the site and the adjoining power station land and ash dam before the new Parliament begins next week.

"He's very aware of the level of anger within the community and has expressed his concern that such a decision was made while the government was in caretaker mode and before a Minister had been sworn in.

"The Minister said the independent review will be 'frank and fearless'."

Mr Piper said the results of the review would "guide the way forward" for the government and local community.

Mr Piper earlier described the decision to close the centre as "a significant over-reaction".

Making news:

He has since been working with stakeholders to have the centre reopened.

It seems plenty of locals are behind him: some 18,000 signatures have been added to a petition he will launch in state parliament next week calling for the facility to be reopened.

A petition requires 10,000 signatures to be scheduled for discussion in parliament.

"I'll be tabling the petition with at least 18,000 signatures on it in Parliament next week and I hope that the matter can then be debated during the May sitting," he said.

Mr Piper said the independent review would cover important ground.

"It will determine if the risk associated with the Eraring ash dam is a manageable risk," he said.

"It's important that we get that bit right because I don't want a situation where we're able to get Myuna Bay reopened, but can't give parents, visitors and schools an assurance that everyone would be safe there.

"The Minister said he is very interested in the underlying issues and the methodology used by Origin in preparing their risk report. All of those things will be covered by the independent review."

Australian Community Media (ACM) has reported NSW Office of Sport CEO Matt Miller brought forward his retirement last week and has left the agency.

Lakes Mail readers, meanwhile, have voiced a range of views about the centre's closure. Many thought something was amiss with the decision, and that the public hadn't yet heard the full story.

Their suspicions grew when it was reported the state government said Wangi Road would remain open despite it being closer to the ash dam than the sport and recreation centre.

There was some sympathy, too, for the people "compelled to make the decision" based on the engineer's report.

In a letter to the editor, Ken Thornton, of Rathmines, wrote: "It's all about risk management. What would you do if you were the responsible person?"

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