LAKE Macquarie City Council will pay for an external review of Rathmines Catalina Association's (RCA) business case, which outlines how it plans to bring tourists and aviation enthusiasts to the 1940s Catalina it is restoring.
The Newcastle Herald reported on October 5 that the RCA was calling on the council for a timeline for when the group will be able to move the Catalina it is restoring off-site to Rathmines Park, where it can complete the work and put the plane on public display.
RCA secretary Laraine Nelson said the group was "concerned" the council's comment in the story didn't reflect progress the RCA had made on its business case.
A council spokesperson had said in the story that final draft plans for Rathmines Park would be considered for adoption by council this month. "The plans provide for the development of a Catalina interpretation hangar on the site, subject to the preparation and approval of a viable business case," the spokesperson had said. "Determination of a business case will be required before approval can be given to lodge a development application." Ms Nelson said the RCA had submitted a 60 page draft business case on May 16 and a revised business case on June 12. "We were told that month that the council would be seeking an external review," she said.
A council spokesperson clarified this week the business case is underway. "Council has been working with members of the Catalina Association since February 2019 to help write a business plan for the governance and management of the plane and the operations of a quality tourism experience," the spokesperson said this week. "To ensure that the best advice is provided, council will fund on behalf of the association an expression of interest to suitably qualified museum and tourism industry professionals to review and provide comment on the feasibility of the proposed operational plan. This will occur once council has considered for adoption the draft master plan and plan of management for Rathmines Park in October."
Ms Nelson said time was of the essence. "We have a rare opportunity post COVID-19 to invest in tourism in our region," she said. "RCA is aware of significant funding opportunities currently available through schemes such as the Federal Regional Tourism Recovery initiative." She said continued delays meant Lake Macquarie risked losing an opportunity to establish a standout tourist attraction. "There's huge potential to develop an innovative tourism destination focused on World War II history," she said. "The interpretative centre will be part of a heritage precinct at Rathmines Park.
"For eight years we've been working towards a home for the Catalina at Rathmines Park. The ratification of the plan of management provides the perfect opportunity to see this come to fruition."
She said RCA has a strong commitment to tourism and had received support from local and Sydney based tourism operators. "The chairman of the Qantas Museum, having reviewed our draft business plan sees great potential for what is proposed."