16 February 2022

Goulburn Council 'at the start of a long road' as it tries to force the sale of St John's Orphanage

| Max O'Driscoll
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St John's Orphanage

St John’s Orphanage has had the same owner since 1999. That may be set to change, as Goulburn Mulwaree Council goes to court in an attempt to force a sale. Photo: Robyn MacRae.

Having owned the building for 22 years and seen various proposals for its redevelopment come and go, St John’s Orphanage owner John Ferrara faces the prospect of being forced to sell the former heritage building with the Goulburn Mulwaree Council taking the issue to court.

Mr Ferrara purchased the property from the Catholic Church in 1999 for $450,000 and since that time has proposed several different plans for the site including a retirement village, units and homes.

But with the building in a state of disrepair, the council has decided to seek legal intervention with required demolition works still to be completed despite passing the 31 January deadline set by the council in November.

Mr Ferrera is already in a court battle with the council over his failure to demolish buildings B, C and D at the orphanage. At the time, he said he was trying his best to organise the demolition but finding someone to do the task was proving to be very difficult.

When Goulburn Mulwaree Council began pursuing legal action on that matter in November, they also gave Mr Ferrara until 31 January to complete the demolition of Building A. Failure to comply would result in further legal action and that demolition is also incomplete.

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Mr Ferrara claims the situation has progressed and that he has nearly finished stage one of the works. Nevertheless, he is still finding the process to be a struggle.

“We’re working on it. We started demolishing it a while ago, and it’s just taking a bit longer than usual, that’s all,” he said.

“If I could put a stick of dynamite in it, it would take one minute. We can’t, so it’ll take a while.”

Speaking on the matter at the Tuesday 1 February council meeting, staff warned that it “could be the start of a long road”, stating that a plan forward would be delivered in the following days.

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On Friday (4 February), the general manager of Goulburn Mulwaree Council Warwick Bennett confirmed to Region Media that they would be commencing legal proceedings, describing it as “an absolute eyesore to Goulburn and its environment”.

“We are going to the Land and Environment Court basically to say that we have given the owner of these premises all the opportunity to work with us and make the place safe,” said Mr Bennett.

“We’ll start the court case with the sole intent of going in there and doing the work and putting a charge across the land which could force the sale of the property.”

Should a sale be forced, the general manager would advise the council to avoid purchasing the property. The hope is that it would be that a new buyer willing to fulfil all the demolition requirements in a timely manner and begin whatever is the next phase for the site.

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Addressing Mr Ferrara’s claim that he is struggling to find someone to perform the demolition, Mr Bennett says he has “no sympathy at all”.

“This man has been lagging for over five years. This is just a continuation of the stories and excuses which has now become very tiresome,” he said.

Should Mr Ferrara complete the necessary works before seeing the court, Mr Bennett said the council would continue pursuing the matter.

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knock it down and bring in a professional developer

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