Adjournment Speech Lake Ainsworth Sport and Recreation Centre

Friday, 23 September 2016


The Hon. CATHERINE CUSACK ( 23:55 ): Lake Ainsworth Sport and Recreation Centre is set on 118 hectares of coastal land, with buildings located in between the northern tip of Lake Ainsworth and the spectacular Seven Mile Beach at Lennox Head. Lake Ainsworth is a very much loved and popular lake. The sport and recreation facility is managed by Jason Dwyer, who has been a breath of fresh air since his arrival. The facility has gone from being separate from the community to having an attitude of engagement, supporting and consulting the village of Lennox Head.

The centre is an economic driver for Lennox Head, and visitors range from youth groups to families and visiting exchange students. It is going to receive a massive boost with the announcement by Minister Ayres of an Olympic ski-jump training facility, which will be not merely world class but also the best in the world. It will attract teams of athletes and their support staff to stay at Lennox Head. I know they will be made welcome and will bring income and jobs across the full 12 months of the year, not just the busy tourist months.

It is an exciting development, which will see the construction of huge swimming pools, creating spin-off opportunities such as hosting national water polo championships—an event at which the Northern Rivers excels. The centre is located at the end of Pacific Parade, Lennox Head's main street. That street runs parallel to the beach, providing access to Lake Ainsworth Caravan Park and Lennox Surf Club, and ends at the sport and recreation centre. It is really the most important road in Lennox Head. For reasons unclear to me, last year Ballina Council voted to close the section of Pacific Parade that runs from the surf club along the eastern side of Lake Ainsworth to the recreation centre. This cuts off access to the centre, effectively stranding it.

I made inquiries at the time and was told "it's for the environment and it's what residents want". However, the Government has clarified that it does not want the road closed or the centre stranded so it has offered to pay for the upgrade and to install drainage to satisfy any concerns of run-off from the road into the lake. It was my understanding that an alternative route was to be built and paved to circumnavigate the lake—effectively taking the long route—but I was puzzled as to how this would help the environment. I would have thought that paving all around the lake, through sensitive coastal land inhabited by swamp wallabies, would have harmed the environment. Nevertheless, it is a council matter.

Over the past week I have learnt that council has resolved to close the road without nominating an alternate route. This is now the subject of controversy. A resident's group, which was formed last year to lobby to keep the road open, has handed me a petition with 2,200 mainly local signatures imploring the council to reverse that decision. People have not only signed that petition but they have also commented—another good Lennox Head innovation—about reduced access to Seven Mile Beach for four-wheel drive owners and dog owners. This part of the lake is beautiful and very popular. Sadly, the popularity of the markets that used to be held at the lake has diminished and this has affected all of the businesses in the town.

The bottom line is that Ballina council has voted to close the road without identifying alternate access to a major State Government sport and recreation centre, nor has it worked out what residential streets it will redirect at least 2,800 cars a day through or the impact this traffic will have on one of the State's most loved and popular caravan parks. The decision it has made is opposed by the police, the rural firefighting service, the State Government and 95 per cent of local residents who were doorknocked for this petition.

The plan will consume half the budget for improving the Lake Ainsworth precinct. It will delete 70 car park spaces in the congested surf club area that service the club and the beach. It will cut a major economic driver off from the town businesses. As I said, the circumnavigation of the lake with a paved road will harm the environment. The Government has offered to replumb the existing road to protect the health of the lake so there can be no environmental argument for doing this. I hesitated about raising a local road issue in this Parliament but this is so dumb. I urge the council to reconsider its decision; if it does not do so, I implore the Government to intervene in the interests of plain old-fashioned sense.

DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( The Hon. S hayne Mallard ): The question is that this House do now adjourn.

Motion agreed to.

The House adjourned at 00.00 until Thursday 11 August at 10.00.