Origin energy will foot what is expected to be a multi-million bill to build an all new sport and recreation centre in Lake Macquarie following the NSW Government's announcement that the defunct Myuna Bay centre will not reopen.
Acting Sports Minister Geoff Lee visited Myuna Bay on Thursday morning to confirm the site's permanent closure, coming after it was abruptly shut in March due to the risk the nearby Eraring power station ash dam posed in the event of a major earthquake.
Mr Lee said the long-awaited second review of the closure had concluded there was an "intolerable" risk to life if the ash dam wall ruptured in the event of an earthquake, which was considered "unacceptable".
"We understand the sport and rec centre is an integral part of the Lake Macquarie community and fast-tracking a replacement is our priority," Mr Lee said.
"A new centre will be purpose built to accommodate the same activities as the current facility including direct access to the lake for watersports."
Acting on advice from Origin Energy, whose Eraring power station ash dam is close to Myuna Bay, the NSW Office of Sport closed the centre without warning on March 29.
An Origin engineering review of the ash dam had found that although the dam was stable, it could be affected in the event of an earthquake.
Because Myuna Bay sits downhill from the ash dam, concerns for the centre were heightened.
"We will always act to ensure the health and safety of the communities where we operate and of our people," Greg Jarvis, Origin's executive general manager, energy supply and operations, said.
"We understand the importance of the centre to the local community and recognise the impact the closure has had.
"With today's announcement we're focused on finalising compensation arrangements, supporting the relocation of the centre and progressing dam wall stabilisation works.
"Detailed technical designs for the ash dam stabilisation works are well advanced and we will shortly select a preferred contractor to commence construction works that are targeted for completion by early 2022."
Lake Macquarie City Council and MP Greg Piper, who launched a petition in April to have the centre reopened, welcomed Thursday's announcement.
Under the new deal, the Office of Sport will be given a 99-year lease on a waterfront site in Lake Macquarie owned by Origin Energy. On this site, new sport and recreation centre will be built. The location of the new site has yet to be released.
Planning and construction of a new sport and recreation centre will be fast tracked, and paid for by Origin Energy. Origin has also agreed to fast track repairs on its ash dam wall at Eraring.
"A second independent report has come back and unfortunately it recommends that the original centre cannot be reopened," Mr Piper said.
"But we've been able to negotiate an agreement that will deliver a new state-of-the-art sport and rec centre, as well as deliver compensation to affected parties, protection of the original site, and options for staff.
"I stand by the view that this closure was handled appallingly and I believe that the risk posed to the Sport and Recreation Centre by the ash dam wall is so infinitely small that it didn't warrant the panicked response and immediate closure.
"That said, the action was taken and we need to now move forward with what I believe will provide a good long-term outcome."
Lake Macquarie City Council said it acknowledged that the NSW Government and Origin Energy had made the decision in the best interests of the community.
"While council hasn't been privy to negotiations so far, we want to move forward and be involved in future plans," the council's deputy CEO, Tony Farrell, said.
"We want the best outcome for our progressive city, well known for its innovation, investment opportunities, outdoor adventures, liveability, and of course its natural beauty.
"The proposed facility is another opportunity for us to preserve and enrich the parts of our community and environment that we love most. It also ensures we can adapt to change as it occurs, and leverage opportunities that will allow us to create jobs, tourism and recreation experiences and ensure Lake Macquarie City continues to thrive."
Key parts of the agreement include:
- The Office of Sport will be given a 99-year lease on a waterfront site owned by Origin Energy. Planning and construction of a new sport and recreation centre will be fast tracked, and paid for by Origin Energy.
- Origin Energy will be required to urgently repair its ash dam wall at Eraring because, as it stands, it poses a risk not just to Myuna Bay but to the lake and to anyone travelling on Wangi Road.
- The existing site will be retained in government hands. It will be rehabilitated and revegetated at Origin's cost and protected from any sort of future development.
- All current Myuna Bay staff will be offered redundancy or redeployment to other sport and rec centres, and given priority re-employment when the new centre is opened.
- The Myuna Bay Water Ski Club will be compensated for its tournament losses by Origin. Its sheds and equipment will be relocated, again at Origin's cost, while access to Whiteheads Lagoon or a new location will be the subject of further negotiations with the club.
- Origin has also agreed to compensate Morisset Rotary Club for the loss of its storage shed on the Myuna Bay site, and for costs incurred since the closure.
Mr Piper thanked the 20,000 people who signed hi petition to have the Myuna Bay Sport and Recreation Centre reopened.
"I thank everyone who supported our campaign on this issue. I believe we've achieved an acceptable outcome, and that simply couldn't have happened without the fight that our community has put up," he said.