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Byron Shire
May 15, 2021

Ballina’s model raft seeks new home

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Ballina Rotary’s Col Lee, with the model raft. Photo David Lowe.

A detailed scale model of a raft built to commemorate the historic Las Balsas expedition is looking for a new place to unfurl its sail.

Formerly on display at the Ballina Airport, the raft model is currently in storage and out of the public eye. Col Lee from the Rotary Club of Ballina on Richmond is one of the people who would like to change that.

The model was made for Rotary by Brian Walsh from Alstonville, a former boat-builder, to celebrate the 40 year anniversary of the Las Balsas expedition arriving in Ballina after an epic trans-Pacific voyage.

‘We had a special function for that particular event in 2013,’ said Mr Lee.

All details are included on the Las Balsas model.

‘We had the Ecuadorian ambassador here, and seven members of the original team that came over on these rafts.

‘The big thing is we were able to recognise – with this scale model of the real thing, which is in the Ballina Maritime Museum – we were able to recognise the historic significance of this.

‘You can see just how robust these rafts were, built as they were hundreds of years ago,’ said Mr Lee.

No room at the airport

Unfortunately, with the refurbishment of the Ballina airport, there was no longer a place for the large model raft, which meant a lost opportunity to educate visitors to the area about Ballina’s role in this extraordinary expedition.

‘It wasn’t convenient, and there’s no room there now, particularly with how busy the airport is,’ said Mr Lee.

‘What we’re wanting to do – because of the significance of this and the tourist value of this particular replica of the raft – is to find an organisation or a business that could house this, and put it on display.’

He said that it would be best if this could be in the Ballina area, ‘Because that’s where it all happened. We need somewhere with enough room to display it, where people will see it. It’s a beautiful piece of work.’

The scale model is 3 metres long and about 3.5m high.

Anyone who is interested can contact Col Lee on 0417 862 602 or email [email protected]

photo David Lowe
Ballina Rotary’s incoming president Col Lee, and outgoing president Dave Harmon.

Ballina Rotary in 2021

Outgoing president Dave Harmon said Ballina Rotary is already planning a number of big events for the year.

He told Echonetdaily, ‘On Australia Day our club’s putting on a BBQ at Captain Cook Park for emergency services in Ballina, that’s the SES, Marine Rescue, and bushfire brigades.

‘We’re putting that on to recognise all their hard work of the last twelve months.

‘Then on 27 March, Ballina’s celebrating 100 years of Rotary in Australia, and we’re doing a community walk from Captain Cook Park to the Marine Rescue Tower on the breakwall.’

Mr Harmon said the walk would also be raising awareness of domestic violence and would be COVID-safe, with council approval already in place.

Other forthcoming events include a dinner at the Ballina RSL in March to mark Rotary’s centenary, a ball in August to raise funds for Love Bites (an education program addressing domestic violence), and a fundraising duck race in October.

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    • Council doesn’t want people visiting their lobby. Every time you go the desk with a enquiry you are told it is a “civil matter” and are handed the Social Justice phone number. They wouldn’t want visitors wandering around in their space.

  1. If not the council chambers, why not the RSL? It could distract from those carpets in the entry lounge!
    It looks like a wonderful model of the real one in the Maritime museum so I hope it finds a good home where people will get to see it…

  2. The foyer area at the RSL would be a wonderful spot, if they could make it work. Brian Walsh’s model is a work of art celebrating an epic voyage across the Pacific.


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