Rathmines Catalina Memorial Park Association seeks tradespeople to volunteer help on Catalina project | photos

MORE tradespeople are being urged to get on board with local efforts to restore a Catalina for display in a proposed museum at Rathmines.

“We need more volunteers, and particularly tradesmen to help with the work,” the new president of Rathmines Catalina Memorial Park Association (RCMPA), Bill Anderson, said.

“We need people with sheet metal skills, boilermakers, and people with good trades backgrounds, as well as marketing people and those with IT skills to help get our association on the front page.”

Mr Anderson, a retired former Qantas pilot of 40 years, is the new man at the controls of the RCMPA project.

He relieves the group’s founding president, Penny Furner, who has stepped down from the role, but who remains fully committed to the project.

Mr Anderson said Ms Furner had overseen “an amazing stint” as the head of the voluntary organisation that had conceived the project.

“But Penny has been desperately short of people on the ground,” Mr Anderson said.

As a result, he said, the project had lost momentum.

“We have a list of 18 volunteers, but a core group of eight to 10 people,” Mr Anderson said.

“We probably need 20 to 25 people here doing work three or four times a week.”

The volunteers are helping with the painstaking work of restoring a Catalina housed on a property at Kilaben Bay.

The restored Catalina would be a static display in a hangar purpose-built as a museum on land owned by Lake Macquarie City Council.

Mr Anderson said the proposed museum had the potential to be a major tourism attraction provided it was part of a revamped Rathmines Park.

“There’s nothing on this side of the lake that reflects the heritage that exists at Rathmines, and there’s no better parcel of land,” Mr Anderson said.

The museum would include memorabilia of Catalinas and the former Rathmines RAAF base, as well as a cafe or restaurant.

Mr Anderson said the new RCMPA committee was working to a timeline that would see the Catalina restoration completed in 2020.

Much depended on support from Lake Macquarie City Council, he said.

Council had engaged consultants to help create a conservation management plan for Rathmines Park, he said.

“We expect to have a seat at that table,” Mr Anderson said.

Asked if the proposed museum could become financially self-sufficient, Mr Anderson didn’t hesitate.

“I believe so, with the priviso that we’re supported,” he said.

The museum should be considered as part of an overall development plan for Rathmines Park, he said.

Mr Anderson said community support for the museum was strong.

“I’ve personally canvassed Rathmines and the general view is the park has been neglected,” he said.

“There is a growing awareness [about the museum project], and the amount of goodwill is just terrific.”

But he admits there is also scepticism about the plan.

Much of that scepticism stems from the time the project is taking to bring to fruition. There are also elements within council that are concerned that the project could become a white elephant.

“The project did lose some momentum,” he said. “There just weren’t enough feet on the ground.”

He said the new RCMPA committee brought a new skills set to the project, and increased awareness of the project.

Mr Anderson said he had been to see the Catalina restored for display at Lake Boga, in Victoria.

“They sat their Catalina on the shores of Lake Boga and built the hangar over it,” he said. “They had a two-day festival and the crowds they had were amazing – in the order of 5000 to 6000 people.”

He said the Rathmines location had the potential to be a much bigger drawcard.

Phone Mr Anderson on 0418 770400, or email president@rathmines-catalina.com.