8 June 2023

Developer buys historic Well Station but it won't be joining suburbia

| Ian Bushnell
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aerial view of farm

An aerial view of the historic Well Station property in Harrison. Photo: Blackshaw Manuka.

One of Canberra’s biggest developers has bought a rare rural property set amid the ACT’s booming northern suburbs, but it won’t be joining the development surrounding it.

Even if John Krnc wanted to develop the 36.75-hectare Well Station in Harrison he wouldn’t be able to thanks to its heritage listing and rural zoning.

Mr Krnc bought the property for a reported $4.25 million and told Region it was perfect for his lifestyle.

“I’ve been living on rural properties for over 20 years and I certainly enjoy plenty of ‘backyard’,” he said.

Mr Krnc already owns a rural property in Murrumbateman but Well Station will serve as his Canberra residence. He plans to move into the heritage cottage that dates back to the 1850s but has not ruled out building a new home on the property.

“The heritage cottage is full of character and history. I will be living there,” Mr Krnc said.

“There are no current plans for a new residence, there’s certainly plenty of opportunities and excellent views and aspects available if that’s to occur in the future.”

Building a new home would require knocking down the second more contemporary residence on the property located at the top of a hill, as the lease only allows for two homes.

A collector of old farm equipment and vintage machinery, Mr Krnc plans to display many of these as well as graze Angus cattle on the property to supplement his existing stock.

The heritage aspects of the property also must be maintained and the lease requires stock to be run.

“There is plenty of maintenance to be done, the shearing shed, yards, stables and worker’s quarters all need considerable work to refresh and maintain them for the future,” Mr Krnc said.

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Selling agent Campbell Jones from Blackshaw Manuka said the unique property was a rural island in a sea of suburbia.

Initially he was flooded with interest, including quite a few developers, until it was explained that the property, with its rural lease, heritage listing and NUZ3 zoning (hills, ridges and buffer) could not be carved up for housing.

Mr Jones said the few who wanted it really wanted it, and Mr Krnc wanted it the most and was prepared to outbid the competition.

“It was going to take a unique buyer in the end as well and he’s the guy,” he said.

Mr Jones said the price was pretty good for what it is, saying the property was almost a liability given the work required to maintain the heritage home and shearing sheds.

“It’s not just a big place to live and build a giant house, you’ve actually go to do some work there.”

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Mr Jones said it was the long-term tenants at the cottage, Dennis and Maree Rose, who did not want to see the property broken up and lobbied successfully for the heritage protections before it was sold in 2011.

Three sisters had inherited the property with little left on the 99-year rural lease, and sold it to Peter Hudson for $1.65 million.

After 35 years at Well Station the Roses will now vacate the property and move to the coast, leaving an historic legacy for Canberra in an intact property that was one of the earliest permanent settlements in the area.

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daveinhackett1:13 pm 06 Jun 23

I lived in this cottage (first pic – the oldest structure) briefly in about 1976; quite a nostalgia hit to see it again after so many years.

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