Landmark Dongara property could be next

Rueben HaleCountryman
Wellard CEO Mauro Balzarini with wife and Giovi chairwoman Giovanna Balzarini in a paddock at The Grange at Dongara.
Camera IconWellard CEO Mauro Balzarini with wife and Giovi chairwoman Giovanna Balzarini in a paddock at The Grange at Dongara. Credit: supplied

Speculation is mounting that high- profile Dongara property The Grange could be the next asset to be offloaded by debt-laden Giovi Ltd.

Formerly Wellard Agri Ltd, the company — owned by Wellard chief Mauro Balzarini — last week sold off its Watheroo conglomerate of Bobawina, Westwood, Gunyidi and Yo Espro, to the US Westchester Agriculture Asset Managers Group. Illinois-based Westchester buys farmland on behalf of super funds and institutional investors.

It owns more than 500 farms valued in excess of $5 billion and covering more than 400,000ha.

As revealed exclusively in Countryman last year, the embattled head of Wellard is aiming to raise at least $100 million from the sale of his privately owned farms and associated assets in WA.

Properties owned by Mr Balzarini’s WGH Holdings had been shopped around to some of WA’s biggest farming families and foreign investors who already own vast tracts of the Wheatbelt.

The WGH farms cover 37,800ha and are operated through subsidiary company Giovi, which is named after Mr Balzarini’s wife.

Apart from the Watheroo operations, the farms form grain and livestock production hubs at The Grange and Kojonup.

It is understood WGH has tried to sell the farming business as a going concern, the farms as a package or separately.

Mr Balzarini’s farming operations are centred on The Grange, a prime property expanded from 14,000ha to 16,000ha, which was acquired from the heirs of Multiplex founder John Roberts in 2010, in a reported $40 million deal.

The Kojonup farms, made up of 7830ha used for grain and sheep production, are tipped to sell for more than $30 million.

Former Pastoralists and Graziers Association president and Dongara local Rob Gillam said The Grange was unique.

“Mr Roberts irrigated large portions of the property and treated it like an enormous hobby farm,” he said.

“The land would be a good investment because it has thousands of hectares of heavy country suitable for sheep and cattle, as well as plenty of lighter country suited to cropping.”

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