15 November 2021

St John's Orphanage owner bewildered by Goulburn Mulwaree Council commencing prosecution

| Max O'Driscoll
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St John's Orphanage in Goulburn

The dilapidated former St John’s Orphanage in Goulburn. Photo: Robyn MacRae.

Goulburn Mulwaree Council has commenced prosecution proceedings against the owner of the former St John’s Orphanage in Goulburn after growing increasingly frustrated with his inaction following council’s demand to demolish the building within 90 days back in July 2021.

Prosecution proceedings have commenced against the property’s owner, John Ferrara, as the demolition order for three smaller buildings onsite has not been complied with, and a demolition order has been issued for the main building as well.

“Council has indicated it will pursue demolition and clean up of this site strongly in court, following numerous fires during the past five years,” said Goulburn Mulwaree Council’s general manager, Warwick Bennett.

“The site is dangerous, and all heritage significance has unfortunately been eroded away due to these fires, with the buildings now beyond repair or restoration. Significant features, such as the crucifix, stone elements and the foundation plaque must be salvaged.

“It is very disappointing to see the property neglected, but council has sent a clear statement in that it now wants the site cleaned up, and is open to future development to make use of the land.”

READ MORE St John’s Orphanage in Goulburn to be demolished

Mr Ferrara is confused by the decision, outlining how it was difficult to organise the building’s demolition during the recent COVID-19 lockdown.

“Council doesn’t live in the real world,” he said.

Mr Ferrara said he’s made a number of attempts to organise the demolition, and even had someone pull out recently who said it was too big of a job.

What he struggles to understand is where the urgency from council has come from, especially considering only a few years ago he wasn’t allowed to do anything significant with the building due to its heritage listing.

Mr Ferrara said he is still very much committed to constructing 75 residential units on the site, and demolition of the former orphanage’s main building will be a necessary part of that process. However, he does not believe it’s possible in the timeframe Goulburn Mulwaree Council is requesting and is unfazed by the court process.

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He believes a judge would see the impact of COVID-19 on the construction industry as a reasonable excuse for not completing the demolition works in time.

Phil Merrigan is an old-boy of the orphanage, and the building is the place he called home for 10 years up until his 16th birthday. He said the fight to keep the orphanage preserved is no longer something he has time for as now the building just “sits there like a tombstone”.

“We are keen to see it go down now,” said Mr Merrigan. “We were keen to try to save it and were fighting it for more than 20 years. But after the last fire, we’re now just keen to see it disappear.”

While eager to see the building demolished, Mr Merrigan sympathises with Mr Ferrara saying he’s been “stuck between a rock and a hard place” in his current predicament.

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There you go everyone wins. Let heritage go to ruin by inaction and indifference, pretend you care, argue, demolish, then redevelop, make money, and forget. Well done everybody.

Mr Ferrera needs to stop procrastinating and blaming everyone else

He has had an excess amount of time to do something with this mess, why does he think he is a law to himself. No one else would have gotten away with this mess for so long.
It’s time some thought was given to the neighbors living next to this mess

Great to see Council finally taking a stance and doing something about this

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