Three churches to go on the auction block this week

WEDNESDAY is D-day for three iconic Ballarat churches when they go under the hammer as the Uniting Church desperately tries to cover a multimillion-dollar debt. 

St Andrew’s, Pleasant Street and Barkly Street Uniting churches could sell “well in excess” of estimated reserves, according to selling agents from Colliers International. 

While the hammer is expected to fall on the three Ballarat properties, one parishioner has vowed to continue her fight to save them.

Fifty-three Uniting Church properties are up for sale across Victoria in an effort to raise $56 million and clear debt left after the collapse of Acacia College in Melbourne. 

Colliers International joint managing director, David Wright, said there had been “tremendous interest” in the churches and he was confident they would sell on Wednesday.

“The properties themselves are very unique,” Mr Wright said. 

“You’re not buying a church, you’re buying a piece of prime real estate.”

St Andrew’s, at the corner of Sturt and Dawson streets, is expected to fetch more than $3.5 million, Pleasant Street more than $1.35 million and Barkly Street more than $750,000.

News of the sale has angered residents, including Pleasant Street Uniting Church parishioner Joan Chambers, who recently approached the Attorney-General in a bid to save the three churches.

“I just don’t understand how they can do this,” Ms Chambers said. 

“To think that Christian ministers and church professionals are treating us like this ... it really is horrible.”

Ms Chambers said she would continue her fight to save the churches, regardless of whether they sold or not. 

“I’ve still got a few things in the pipeline and I am hopeful something can be done to save our churches,” she said. 

“The Attorney-General is very aware and I really hope he can help.”

Mr Wright said the Pleasant Street and Barkly Street churches would likely be used residentially, while St Andrews’ special-use zone would need to be re-zoned to allow a residence.

Acacia College in Mernda, a low-fee school for 520 students, closed last December, leaving the Uniting Church with a $36 million debt.

The state synod voted in May to raise $56 million.

The Courier tried unsuccessfully to contact a representative of the Uniting Church.

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