Goulburn businessman John Ferrara has listed the Goulburn Airport for sale, and wants to cash in his properties, which also include the controversial site on which the former St John’s Orphanage burned and was bulldozed to the ground.
The general aviation airport includes a 1283 x 30-metre runway equipped with low-intensity lighting, a helipad, airplane hangars, a former motel building, a cafe and outbuildings, all sitting on 118 hectares of land seven kilometres south of Goulburn.
Mr Ferrara, who also owns the Goulburn Flight Training Centre and previously ran skydiving in partnership with another operator, said the long-running dispute with hangar users over fees to access taxiways and runways was not resolved.
No-one wanted to pay money, he said, giving an example of someone landing a plane at the airport last month and using his aircraft’s call signs, so he would end up getting the bill.
But it was his retirement that had prompted him to put the airport, which he bought from the then Goulburn City Council in 2011 for $2.5 million, on the market, along with other properties surrounding the airport.
“I am retiring, so I am selling everything that I have around the airport as one package,” he said.
He said he had made a few improvements to the airport, built a couple of hangars and added 33 hectares to the property.
The airport had not been developed to its full potential during his tenure of ownership, he said.
“You have to spend a lot of money to make money. Money makes money,” he said.
“If you want to spend a few hundred million, you can make money out of anything.”
So why buy the Goulburn Airport? “Because I always wanted to own one,” he said.
While airports large and small are important drivers of commerce, Goulburn’s has not matched others in regional centres. At the council-owned Cowra Airport, up to 20 pilots graduate from the flying school each year, while thousands of spectators see national fly-ins of the Antique Aeroplane Association, flying competitions of the Royal Aero Club NSW and visits from Recreational Aviation Australia, Sporting Aircraft Association of Australia, Red Baron Aerobatic Club, and the Red Radials. Pilots from Canberra are regular users of Cowra’s facilities.
The Goulburn Post reported in October 2016 Mr Ferrara had threatened to fence off users’ hangars unless they paid fees to access taxiways and runways. But users were in revolt over the move, refusing to pay. Hangar owner Tony Lamarra was given a $212,595 bill by Mr Ferrara.
The former St John’s Orphanage was bulldozed last year after Goulburn Mulwaree Council issued demolition orders and sought court action after losing patience with Mr Ferrara, who had not responded to earlier orders.
Mr Ferrara said many people wanted to buy property like the St John’s site, liked to talk about it, and wanted to do joint ventures and other schemes.
“I don’t want to do that, I just want to cash in,” he said.