Consultants find former Rathmines RAAF base a nationally significant site | photos

A former Catalina “flying boat” base in Lake Macquarie is a nationally significant site with “exceptional” historic value, according to a draft Lake Macquarie City Council conservation management plan.

Consultants Umwelt Australia were contracted by council to assess the significance of Rathmines Park, which served as a RAAF seaplane base during World War II.

Council’s community planning acting manager, Wes Hain, said the resulting draft conservation management plan was the first step in creating a future master plan for Rathmines Park.

“Any future use of Rathmines Park must be mindful of the site’s heritage significance,” Mr Hain said.

“The site has a fascinating and incredibly significant wartime history, which we wanted to fully understand before moving forward.

“At its peak, this was Australia’s main seaplane base, responsible for launching airborne anti-submarine patrols right along the east coast.”

The RAAF operated the base from the start of World War II in 1939 until 1961, with Catalinas and other aircraft moored just offshore.

Others were hauled onto land for maintenance inside the site’s giant hangar.

Mr Hain said council and Umwelt had undertaken a number of stakeholder workshops and site visits over the past six months to document the history of the site.

An assessment of heritage significance within the draft conservation management plan concluded the base overall has historical significance on a national level.

Some 230 buildings were erected throughout the life of the base.

Only 10 remain today.

Part of the former hangar survives and is now owned by the Christadelphian Bible School.

Council owns other buildings used for various purposes including a bowling club, scout hall, workshop, music centre and storage sheds.

The site is also home to a RAAF Catalina memorial, opened in 1972.

“Council will continue to ensure that any future community or commercial use does not negatively affect the interpretation or appreciation of this picturesque historical site,” Mr Hain said.

“Now is the opportunity for the community to assist in providing copies of historic photos and documents associated with the former RAAF base.”

The draft plan is on public exhibition at until Friday, August 24. The draft plan is also available at local libraries.

Then and now

  • The Catalina Conference Centre was once the air base hospital.
  • Club Catalina (Rathmines Bowling Club) was once the officers’ mess.
  • The Christadelphian Bible School was the main hangar.
  • Rathmines Scout Hall was the inflammable liquids store.
  • The Scout Hall storage area was once an electricity substation.
  • The boat workshop was the ablutions building.
  • Rathmines Community Hall was the former picture theatre and gym for the air base.
  • The Rathmines Community Hall storage area was once a boiler house.
  • And the Westlakes Music Centre used to be the sergeants' mess.

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