Catherine Hill Bay heritage village and its bush and heathland location beside a 2km long beach were protected by Lake Macquarie City Council in 2004 as a Heritage Conservation Area (HCA).

The village comprises the oldest group of buildings in Lake Macquarie City and its natural environment is largely unchanged since before Captain Cook sailed past. The area’s distinctive natural and built features have been acknowledged since 1969 as having a significance worth protecting, and in 1992/1993 the first heritage study was presented.

The cessation of coal mining in 2002 accelerated moves to further protect and preserve its unique characteristics. In 2005 the Catherine Hill Bay Progress Association nominated the HCA for listing on the State Heritage Register, the highest level of heritage protection available in NSW.

The NSW Heritage Office assessing this nomination lapsed in late 2006 when the NSW Planning Minister, Mr Sartor, cleared the way for large scale development of the “Bay”.

In August 2008, Planning Minister Kelly announced Catherine Hill Bay was to get the State’s highest protection. This announcement was a huge milestone and victory for the efforts over meany years of CHBPA, our community and friends, the Lake Macquarie City Council, the National Trust and our many other supporters. The heritage listing was created on the 5th of Janurary, 2010. It can be viewed here and an archived copy is available here.

The listing is only the second time – following he listing of Braidwood in southern NSW in 2004 – that an entire town has been placed on the State Heritage Register.

Planning Minister Tony Kelly said “These villages have been recognised for their outstanding historic and aesthetic qualities as well as the important cultural association they provide to the States’s early mining and maritime industries”.

However, the area under protection is significantly less then we expected and less than that listed by Lake Macquarie City Council. It excludes some important heritage items as well as the environmental setting.

The Heritage Office has already included on the State Heritage Register the remnant WWII RAAF Radar Station No 208, built in bush adjacent to one of the Bay’s earliest, now derelict, settlements, known as Mine Camp.

The Radar Station and the women who operated it feature in the Summer 2005/06 issue of “Heritage NSW”, the newsletter of the Heritage Office. (The Heritage Office website is www.heritage.nsw.gov.au and go to “Publications and Forms”. A free printed copy is available by emailing [email protected] .)

The story of the Radar Station was the theme of the Bay’s 2005 Heritage Festival (“How the Bay Helped to Win the War”), and is dealt with comprehensively in the Progress Association’s DVD “The Bay at War”.

The Progress Association has a commitment to preserve the heritage of the Bay and has initiated a number of projects involving extensive community involvement, including the annual “Back to the Bay” Heritage Festival and “Catho Classics” Film Festival.

Some seven feature films or TV episodes have been shot on location at the Bay and the “Catho Classics” Film Festival takes each year one of these productions and uses its story to illuminate part of the village’s history and community life, through a locally-produced DVD.

In 2004 Mel Gibson’s first starring movie “Summer City” served as the theme of a DVD which recorded residents’ experiences and memories of the shoot and its impact on the village. In 2005 a 12-minute 1942 Charles Chauvel “classic” called “Power to Win” (about war-time coal mining underground) and a 1996 episode of the UK TV series “Soldier Soldier” presented an opportunity for the DVD team to examine “The Bay at War” during World War II.

The 2007 “Back to the Bay” Heritage Festival was the 140th anniversary of the shipwreck of the “Catherine Hill”, after which the Bay is named (click Our Past for the Bay’s history). The anniversary was the theme of the 2007 Festival.

Photos of Catherine Hill Bay’s Back to the Bay celebrations are in the gallery section