Claimant wins prime Port Fairy block - for free

A PRIZED riverfront parcel of land in Port Fairy has been awarded to a Melbourne man — for free. 

Moyne Shire was given notice of the successful adverse possession claim last week, despite resolving to “vigorously” oppose it earlier this year.

The popular low-lying fishing spot at 107 Gipps Street — often referred to locally as Digby’s Paddock — has fallen into the ownership of claimant John Mugavin of Melbourne. 

Under rules of adverse possession, a person can claim a property if they can prove they have uninterrupted and exclusive possession of the land for at least 15 years.

Moyne Shire director of physical services Trev Greenberger said Land Victoria had informed them on the decision on Thursday. 

Mr Mugavin will not have to pay a purchase price for the land. It is also unclear what the land, adjacent to the Moyne River bridge, might be worth. 

Mr Greenberger said he understood Mr Mugavin had paid rates on the land for the past five years and the council was now negotiating with him to ensure the public still had access to the land. 

“The claimant has been awarded title to the land...what we’re doing now is negotiating with the new landowner to negotiate access for people who want to go fishing or use that part of the river,” Mr Greenberger said. 

Despite being flood-prone, a house could still be built on the 4463-square-metre block. 

Mr Greenberger said the block was zoned under farming and would still require a council planning process for approval. 

According to Port Fairy historian Marten Syme, the listed owners of the property were three men from 1885 who belonged to a syndicate. 

In October Port Fairy councillor James Purcell urged Moyne Shire to fight the claim.

“I’m extremely disappointed and that’s an understatement,” Cr Purcell said.

“The motion was to vigorously oppose it and I don’t think we went strong enough.” 

Cr Purcell said he hoped the land would remain open for public use. 

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