The State's peak heritage body plans to intervene to help stop further degradation of buildings at the former Kenmore Hospital.
Vandals have broken into the Taralga Road facility in recent weeks, lit small fires, ripped cedar skirtings, architraves and doors from walls, stolen marble fireplace surrounds and left holes in the floor and ceilings.
Australia-China International Holdings Pty Ltd bought the facility and its 77 buildings set across 78 hectares in 2016. Company owner Xiao Liang Wen flagged retirement living, an international school and a Chinese medicine facility among the development options.
While the grounds have been maintained, residents have reported little upkeep on the buildings on the state significant site despite a master plan being approved.
In response to The Post's questions, a Heritage NSW spokesperson said the department was aware of the condition and risk to Kenmore Hospital.
"(We) have been in contact with the current owners regarding their obligations to manage the property according to the minimum standard provisions of the NSW Heritage Act 1977," she said.
"Heritage NSW is currently seeking an opportunity to inspect the site with the owner's representative, noting COVID constraints."
She confirmed that the current owner had not received or applied for a Heritage Grant from the department.
The Post has been unable to contact the company for comment.
Goulburn MP Wendy Tuckerman has also toured the property and has raised its condition with Heritage Minister, Don Harwin. She said she was "shocked, saddened and angered" by its state.
The site includes among the finest examples of Edwardian freestyle architecture designed by Walter Liberty Vernon, according to its State heritage listing. Construction on the sprawling property started in the early 1890s and evolved into what was described as one of the best designed, planned and most modern psychiatric facilities in NSW. It also functioned as a village, with a farm, sporting facilities and gardens and a section was used as a military hospital during World War Two.
But Goulburn man Peter Trama says this physical history is at risk unless someone acts. Mr Trama helped restore core buildings on the Marian College site next to the new Quest Apartments in Clinton Street. He is also the caretaker.
"There is no question in my mind that if something doesn't occur soon (with Kenmore) another fire like Saint John's will happen," he said.
Mr Trama was referring to the 1912 Saint John's orphanage in Mundy Street which was substantially destroyed by several blazes in 2015 and 2016.
Mr Trama said it was essential that a caretaker and security were enlisted to stop the window smashing, vandalism and theft at Kenmore. Several weeks ago, intruders lit a fire in the old chapel and smashed a hole in the floor and ceiling.
Aside from the "irreplaceable" Australian cedar, he told The Post that moisture ingress was causing cracking in buildings. Old slate roof tiles were also cracked and missing. Graffiti had also been sprayed inside and out.
"It would cost millions of dollars to fix it all," Mr Trama said.
"...It would take years and you would have to work from the most to the least significant buildings and on those that could bring in some money to fund the restoration."
He believed former owner Lila Chan's idea for a retirement village was worthy, as were plans for an international school. It was just one part of a master plan approved after her company, LAJC Energy Pty Ltd bought the property in 2010.
While a caretaker would help address vandalism, Mr Trama said it wouldn't stop break-ins in the very rear buildings.
"It's a tragedy," he said of the deterioration.
"Part of the problem is that people see the size of the land close to Goulburn and think of its value rather than the site.
"It's a very significant property and to see it deteriorate is criminal; it's a crying shame. I'm passionate about restoring buildings so people can enjoy truly brilliant architecture because you don't see that anymore."
Meantime, Goulburn MP Wendy Tuckerman said she had raised her "grave concerns" about Kenmore with Heritage Minister Don Harwin and the Heritage Council of NSW, following a visit.
"Several constituents and stakeholders have contacted my office with their own concerns around the care and maintenance of this precious establishment," she said in a statement.
"I am shocked, saddened and angered by the current state of Kenmore. The buildings have been subject to serious and continuing vandalism - reparation and maintenance have been ignored and the present dilapidation of the buildings is a dishonour to Goulburn's history."
She said the community held fond memories of careers, sport and recreation on the grounds and on the nearby Wollondilly River.
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"I have been recently advised that (the owners) are seeking interest from anyone that may have a purpose to use the site.
"...Owners of State Heritage listed sites have an obligation to conserve the history of the site. I await a response from the Minister."
Goulburn Mulwaree Council had met several times with the owner and his consultants in the past two to three years, general manager Warwick Bennett said.
"He discussed a number of proposals but nothing has come to fruition," he told The Post.
"There was a plan of management which included housing and apartments. The council strongly supported this but we've heard no further word."
Development applications would have to be lodged for separate uses.
Mr Bennett said vandalism was always a concern but the council was powerless to act unless it was affecting structural integrity..
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"We would prefer it not to occur... All we can do is keep talking to Mr Xiao. The state government probably also has no further powers than us to act and ensure the buildings' upgrade."
The state government finalised sale of the Kenmore property to Longreach Capital Pty Ltd in 2005 for $3 million. It was declared state significant around the same time.
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