Whiteheads Lagoon

14th September 2023

Mr GREG PIPER (Lake Macquarie) (15:24): Adjacent to the former Myuna Bay Sports and Recreation Centre, just off the shores of Lake Macquarie, is a body of water called Whiteheads Lagoon. The calm waters of Whiteheads Lagoon, protected from prevailing winds by trees and vegetation and of an ideal size and orientation, make it a water skier's dream. In the 40 years prior to 2019, Whiteheads Lagoon was home to the mighty Myuna Bay Tournament Waterski Club, of which I am sure members have heard. The origins of Myuna Bay Tournament Waterski Club go back to the 1980s when a group of four local families recognised how ideal Whiteheads Lagoon was for waterskiing and arranged an agreement with the sports and recreation centre for a six-month trial of waterskiing on Whiteheads Lagoon.

Working with the centre, arrangements were made to allow the club to access the lagoon, alternating with scheduled times for canoeing and sailing by camp visitors. From its early beginnings, the waterski club went from strength to strength. The club funded and installed infrastructure — initially just a slalom course and soon after a ski jump. As time went on, more infrastructure was funded, built and subsequently upgraded through the hard work of club members. By the time the sport and recreation centre was closed suddenly in 2019, the club had three high-quality jetties, a boat ramp, a boat shed and a ski jump on the site. Over the 40 years the club was based out of Myuna Bay, it trained a number of Australian world champion water skiers. Myuna skiers have won five gold medals at world junior championships and have collectively won 175 national age-division titles. The club strongly believes that the training conditions available at Whiteheads Lagoon have contributed to this success.

During the years that the club was based at Myuna Bay, it also hosted a number of national and international events, including the national championships in 1985 and 1999; the Oz Ski tournaments in '95, '97, '99 and 2000; and the Aussie-Kiwi Junior Challenge in 2015, 2017 and, partially, in 2019. On 27 March 2019 I attended the sport and recreation centre for the opening of the 2019 Aussie-Kiwi challenge. Little did I or the waterskiing community know what was about to occur two days later. On the second day of the 2019 Aussie-Kiwi challenge, club organisers were contacted by the Office of Sport and were advised that all participants and visitors had to evacuate the site by 6.00 p.m. that evening and that the competition was over. There was no regard for the event organisers and competitors who had travelled from far and wide to attend. This, of course, was in response to a report raising concern about the stability of the ash dam wall at Eraring Power Station.

I will not rehash the troubling events around the closure of Myuna Bay Sport and Recreation Centre today. There has been much discussion on that topic in this House, along with adverse findings by the Public Works Committee in 2021 about the transparency, communication and consultation around the centre's closure. When Myuna Bay centre was shut, not only was the Aussie-Kiwi challenge cancelled but the club lost access to Whiteheads Lagoon altogether. Unfortunately, boats cannot access the lagoon via the water, and while the club has, on many occasions, sought permission to cross the sport and recreation centre site to access the lagoon, access has been repeatedly refused. A development application has now been lodged to demolish the old sport and rec centre, including plans to demolish jetties, ski jump, boat ramps and the boathouse built by the Myuna Bay club. I have written to the Minister requesting that the waterskiing infrastructure be maintained. This has been denied, although the club has been offered the opportunity to remove their own infrastructure.

The bureaucratic roadblocks continually being put up stopping waterski access to Whiteheads Lagoon astounds and frustrates me and the community. It is impossible to see how occasional use of the lagoon in daytime poses any risk to the waterski club members. New South Wales has very few waterskiing sites that can compare to Whiteheads Lagoon. It is a natural tournament and training venue of international standard. I accept that the old Myuna Bay sport and rec centre has been decommissioned and will not be reopened. I thank the Government for its commitment to the new centre at Morisset, and I look forward to seeing further progress on that project in the future. Minister Kamper and his office have been constructive and consultative in relation to the project. I ask the Government to continue in this spirit of cooperation to support the sport of waterskiing in New South Wales, to maintain the waterski infrastructure in Whiteheads Lagoon and to work with me to find a solution to facilitate waterski access to the lagoon as soon as possible. Thank you, Mr Temporary Speaker, and I thank members for their indulgence.

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