OCTOBER 16 2019 - 4:00PM

Lake Macquarie City Council faces big decision on proposed Catalina hangar and museum in Rathmines 

TWO avid supporters of the plan to have a restored Catalina on display in a hangar at Rathmines disagree about where the structure should be built.r0_0_2940_2221_w1200_h678_fmax.jpg

Rathmines Catalina Memorial Park Association (RCMPA) volunteers have been restoring a PBY Catalina, dubbed Our Girl, to go on public display.

RCMPA president Bill Anderson said the plan was for the aircraft to become the feature attraction in a purpose-built hangar and museum at Rathmines on land owned by Lake Macquarie City Council.

David Hagen, the director of Catalina Lakefront Retreat, said he fully supported the plan.

"I believe that anything that builds on the historical importance of Rathmines is good for the community," Mr Hagen said.

But he is not happy about the RCMPA's preferred site.

He said locating the hangar on the edge of the concrete apron behind Catalina Lakefront Retreat would block out lake views from the property.

"We are a charity dedicated to enriching the lives of people with a disability," Mr Hagen said.

"We get many disability groups in here, as well as community groups, who occupy the property for short durations.

"We've made the property a haven for people to come and rebuild their lives and enjoy a refreshing experience here. To deprive them of the beautiful views would be a travesty."

He has urged council to consider alternative sites in Rathmines.

"There are quite a number of possibilities, both on the edge of the concrete apron, and even on a footprint on part of the parkland that could be suitably prepared for an aircraft hangar."

Mr Anderson said he respected Mr Hagen's right to a view, and to protect his commercial interest.

RCMPA's priority, he said, was to achieve the best outcome for the "broader community".

"During the period 1939-45 there were two hangars on separate concrete slabs, known as the western hangars. Our preferred site is on one of those," he said.

"Our view is that on a sunny day, we could wheel the Catalina out and play appropriate music, and show it off in all its glory in the fresh air."


 Mr Anderson said the RCMPA was "an interested stakeholder" and had expressed a preference but was open to the idea of building the hangar at other potentially viable sites. Picture: David Stewart

The council is developing a Master Plan and Plan of Management for Rathmines Park, which is listed on the NSW Heritage Register.

Earlier this year, a Conservation Management Plan (CMP) for the area was adopted by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.

One of the guiding principles of the CMP was that any structure re-established in Rathmines Park should occupy the same footprint, and be of the same size and design, as the original structure.

Mr Hagen said he believed that was a compelling reason why the planned new hangar could not be established in RCMPA's preferred location.

Mr Anderson said the original western hangars were used like a carport.

"They were wide enough to contain the Catalina's wingspan, but they were not deep enough to enclose the aircraft," he said.

The idea was that a Catalina could be nosed into the hangar and RAAF personnel could work on the aircraft under cover.

"The building we're interested in has got to be big enough to enclose the aircraft and lock it up, for obvious reasons."

Mr Anderson said the preferred site would enable a like-for-like structure to be built.

"But we would have to have a discussion with council and the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage to see if they would allow a variation to the Conservation Management Plan to allow a slightly larger hangar to be built there," he said.

Mr Anderson reiterated that the RCMPA was "an interested stakeholder" and had expressed a preference but was open to the idea of building the hangar at other potentially viable sites.

Council is the consent authority, and it will seek further community consultation on concept designs in early 2020.

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