ONE of Lake Macquarie's most unique recreational groups could be forced to shut if it continues to struggle to pay its rent.
Established more than 30 years ago, the Lake Macquarie Miniature Aircraft Club operates from a carport and an open field in Teralba, owned by Lake Macquarie council.
It is the only club of its kind in the area.
Its 31 members build and fly model planes and participate in training days, co-ordinated by the club's qualified instructors.
Last September, the council conducted a review on lease fees for community groups and recreation facilities.
It found community groups were paying 10 to 15 per cent of the market lease rate, and adopted a new model where fees would increase over a five-year period.
The council ruled it would negotiate a fee phase-in with community groups that could demonstrate financial hardship.
Under the new model, the aircraft club was dealt a rent hike from $500 to $750 this financial year. Next year, it will jump to $1100 and increase by 11 per cent each year thereafter.
A council spokesperson said in the aircraft club's case, the land rates alone were $2513 per annum.
However, Lake Macquarie Miniature Aircraft Club treasurer Brian Stevens said the club was still being asked to pay too much.
Mr Stevens said the club's $230 annual membership fee barely covered insurance from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.
"We can see we're going to run short of funds because we can't increase our membership fees and we can't just pull more members out of thin air," he said.
This month the club has co-ordinated a fund-raising raffle to help pay its bills.
The winners of three petrol vouchers, worth $500, $200, $100 will be drawn on Sunday, February 23. Cost is $3 a ticket.
■ To buy a raffle ticket or for more information on the Lake Macquarie Miniature Aircraft Club, phone Brian Stevens on 0405 757 595.