The organiser of an international water-skiing competition held at Myuna Bay has labelled the NSW Office of Sport's decision to close the sport and recreation centre mid-event on Friday as a "knee-jerk" reaction.
Founding member of the Myuna Bay Waterski Club and organiser of the Aussie Kiwi Challenge, Neil O'Toole, says he was left dumbfounded after being told on Friday to cancel the junior event attended by more than 150 people.
Office of Sport officials in Sydney summoned him to a phone conference about 3pm to deliver the news the camp would be immediately closed over fears the stability of Eraring power station's nearby ash dam could be affected if a 5.9-magnitude earthquake occurred.
Mr O'Toole questioned why the closure could not wait until Monday when the event concluded but was told there was no other option.
"To be told that within a couple of hours is pretty devastating, pretty appalling actually from a government's perspective," he said.
"It was just a weird turn of events for everybody. It's really left myself, and the members of our club down there, with an empty feeling."
Competitors and their families were staying in the sport and recreation centre's accommodation for the event, which started with practice on Monday and was due to finish on Sunday.
Mr O'Toole said people had come from as far as New Zealand, Queensland, Western Australia and Victoria for the event, which most families treat like an annual holiday.
"These are annual championships hosted bi-annually by each country," he said.
"This year in Australia, next year in New Zealand."
The Office of Sport provided those staying on site with accommodation in Newcastle until Monday, but Mr O'Toole criticised the agency's handling of the closure.
"We're gutted and empty," he said of the feeling among Myuna Bay Waterski Club members.
"There's been no lead-up and no consultation from government at all.
"But also Origin Energy, there's been consultation with anybody in the club at all.
"You build up to these events, you put in so much energy into these things preparing, but then it starts and you feel like the rug's been pulled from underneath your legs.
"I'm still trying to come to grips with it all."
Mr O'Toole, who thought the earthquake threat was a "bullshit story", called on the government and Origin Energy to make the documents that forced the closure public.
"Show your cards," he said. "They've dealt some pretty bad cards at us; put your cards on the table so we can understand where you're at.
"It's really poor form. It seems a massive knee-jerk reaction. That dam wall has been there for years.
"The other thing is, there's that major road that goes right next to the lake there. They've evacuated the [sport and rec] site, but what about the road impacts? Where's the knee-jerk reaction on that? Have they looked at the alternatives for that?"
Myuna Bay Waterski Club president Peter Atkinson said the club had to scurry to remove its resources from the site on Friday.
He said the decision had been a massive blow to the club, which has operated out of the sport and recreation centre for four decades and is about to take delivery of a new $110,000 club boat.
"It's the most highly respected waterski site in Australia," he said.
"Anyone who's anyone in waterskiing, if they could get a membership at Myuna Bay they'd treat it like gold."
Mr Atkinson said club officials, who were key-holders to the centre as part the club's agreement with the Office of Sport, had been locked out since Friday and were without a training base two weeks out from state and national championships.
"We've got a lot of young prominent skiers coming through the ranks at the moment, and three weeks out from the nationals we've had our site pulled out from underneath us and they've got nowhere to train," he said.
"We're all desperately trying to seek what avenues we can take to get access back.
We're devastated and in total disbelief.Myuna Bay Waterski Club president Peter Atkinson
A NSW Office of Sport spokesperson said the agency had hoped the tournament could be shifted elsewhere but no other site was considered viable due to the logistics of the event and competition format.
"Event organisers and team captains have been offered a full refund of the cost of the use of Myuna Bay facilities for their entire booking," the spokesperson said.
"Competitors and their families were provided with alternative accommodation for Friday to Sunday nights.
"Organisers were informed to provide the Office of Sport with details of any out of pocket expenses incurred by organisers or competitors as a result of the cancellation."