Farming family make $100m on sale of Merri Park, due to development potential on Melbourne fringes

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Is Melbourne’s housing sprawl out of control? Grandchildren sell family’s cattle farm for more than $100million to make way for a new suburb with a 1000 houses

  • 434ha farm at Beveridge, in Melbourne’s growth corridor, sold for $100million+
  • Sold by family of Sir Cecil Looker, private secretary to WWII PM Robert Menzies
  • Family lobbied to have the land rezoned, potential for 1000 homes on it
  • The Chinese-backed Australian developer SIG Group bought the property  
  • Part of the property also earmarked for huge commercial precinct

The cattle-farming family of a ‘hard man’ in Australia’s World War II political leadership have reaped more than $100million with the sale of the huge property he bought in retirement.

Cecil Looker, private secretary to WWII Prime Minister Robert Menzies and later a chief of the Melbourne and Australian Stock Exchanges, bought the 434 hectare Merri Park property at Beveridge, 35km north of Melbourne in 1966.

A ‘hard man with a large chip on his shoulder’, Mr Looker relaxed at the property with his wife Jean from 1966, according to the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

In 1968 he hosted Prince Philip at the property, holding displays of boomerang throwing, sheep shearing and dog trials.

An aerial view of the Looker family's 434 hectare Merri Park property, which sold to SIG Group for over $100million

An aerial view of the Looker family’s 434 hectare Merri Park property, which sold to SIG Group for over $100million

Sir Cecil Looker, a 'hard man' who went from a key role in wartime politics to a string of executive positions from the 1950s to 1980s - before he died in 1988 aged 75

Sir Cecil Looker, a ‘hard man’ who went from a key role in wartime politics to a string of executive positions from the 1950s to 1980s – before he died in 1988 aged 75

A year later he was knighted, becoming Sir Cecil.

His farm produced merino wool, before he switched to focusing on breeding Hereford and Angus cattle. 

Sir Cecil was principal partner of stockbroker Potter Partners, led the Victorian Economic Development Corporation and also held positions including deputy chairman of Ansett Airlines, president of the RACV and Australia’s representative at the World Bank. 

Sir Cecil was valued at $2.6million when he died in 1988 aged 75 – but his family made the most of the jewel in his estate. 

A key planning document showing the scale and location of Merri Park beside major commercial interests at Melbourne's northern urban development fringes

A key planning document showing the scale and location of Merri Park beside major commercial interests at Melbourne’s northern urban development fringes 

It sold for $100million plus, just over a decade after the Looker family began lobbying to have the land rezoned to make development on it possible, realestate.com.au reported.

A Chinese-backed Australian property developer, SIG group, bought the property, which is estimated at twice the size of the Victorian capital’s CBD. 

It is understood the rezoned land could accommodate up to 1000 housing lots within a new 110-hectare suburb, within the planned Donnybrook/Woodstock precinct.

The property also has parcels of 199 hectares and 125 hectares are expected to be used by industry.

The marketing agents have claimed it could support ‘$1.2 billion of commercial product’, realestatesource reported. 

Selling agency Core Projects said Merri Park was ‘in the top two or three’ large undeveloped privately-held properties in Melbourne’s urban-growth area.  

An illustration showing a planned suburb on Merri Park land north of Melbourne, with proposed nearby developments nearby

An illustration showing a planned suburb on Merri Park land north of Melbourne, with proposed nearby developments nearby

The agency confirmed the vendors has still farmed cattle on the property.

The Beveridge Intermodal Freight Terminal is planned for the area.

The rail freight facility is expected to host over 18,000 jobs.

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