Maurice Furlan's story

From a houseboat builder to a single father.

This video shows numerous documents related to this matter. They include and parliamentary records and court judgements. 

NSW Authorities claim they have legally destroyed their files however the Information Commissioner  has said otherwise. 

This little movie is part of a TV8 NEWSHOUR SPECIAL REPORT which aired on  August 3,1987. 

The program misreported the intended location of the botel project to justify a fictitious local opposition claim.

I have now come to realise that the report was an elaborate plot arranged by the Swan Hill Promotions Group and Barham Progress Association. 

".....and thats when he came across his strongest opposition in the form of the Barham Progress Association....."

The BPA supported botel but wanted it relocated away from School of Arts Hall because of a perceived conflict in car parking there. Waterhouse was happy to move away from there and closer to the Pokie Club !

Jack Keck was the treasurer of the association. He was also owner of a hire houseboat Shady Lady which sometimes operated behind the hall. It was not required to have council approval to operate.

Peter Drummond was the Shire Health Inspector. He was not a Town Planner as claimed in the report.

View from the bridge over the Murray River at Barham/Koondrook in !988.  It shows (from top left to bottom right) the commercial houseboat Shady Lady then part owned by Cr. Alan Keck, Wakool Shire and Treasurer of Barham Progress Association. The business closed and it was leaving the area in mid 1988 after arriving in 1985.

Centre is the 1986 Botel Marina Project the subject of this website. Barkoona and its permanently moored pontoon landing (given trial approval in late 1987 and DA approval soon after) is on the right in the foreground.  

The Botel vessels are tied up next to the council caravan park at the river end of Noorong Street. It was moved across the river to the Barkoona mooring where it was confiscated by NSW Maritime an local council officials in 1990 from Victoria. 

No physical evidence remains of the large unfinished vessel however the smaller unit was apparently sold to another business at Swan Hill. It remains there today.

Together the vessels were 200 square meters in area.

This YouTube clip was uploaded by visitors. 

It shows botel bend site from the southern end of Noorong St. The intended botel site is submerged and the willow trees shown above have been removed. 

Large amounts of heavy sand have been brought in to create a large sandbar. It was nonexistent

in 1988 when the local member Jim Small described it to Parliament.

The hire houseboat "Shady Lady" (above left) is shown leaving the area after arriving in 1985. Today you come to realise that it never had council approval ! 

Your large dome shaped houseboat (centre) is shown during construction. The smaller unit (right) is complete. Recently, you rediscover it located downriver near Murray Downs Marina. 

In 1986, Waterhouse Enterprises asked NSW Maritime (Maritime Services Board) for approval to build, rent and sell houseboats on a commercial basis. They passed the matter on to the local NSW council. Wife Karen wrote to Kerang (VIC) council seeking a mooring licence. They also directed us to the NSW Wakool council.   

Months of inaction went by. Eventually, Captain Stacey (NSW Maritime Services Board) revealed that NSW Planning Department were preparing a Regional Plan. Planning Minister Bob Carr advised us no approval was necessary from them unless council called for Environmental Impact Statement. 

Council required a formal Development Application and Environmental Report from Waterhouse. Council advertised the Application and approved it in principle.  Council offered a number of sites and the Noorong roadway for parking

The BOTEL idea was and still remains unprecedented. Individual units could be moved along the river to other botel sites to satisfy demand. Each botel comprised a floating restaurant and accommodation units. The first of 6 was to be located on the NSW riverbank next to the council caravan park at Barham. In 1986, there was written support for the project from Jim Small MP. He wrote to Maritime on our behalf but sadly he mislead NSW Parliament in late 1988. The local Progress Association also supported us but then arranged for the regional television station (TV8 in Swan Hill) to discredit our project.

Before matters turned sour we had invested our life savings in materials expecting to sell the houseboats if the project were to fail. We had originally intended to only build the very large dome shaped boathouse and we had sufficient funds to do that. We subsequently decided to build the smaller houseboat to satisfy the public curiosity which the project had generated. This left us vulnerable with only enough money to then complete the large vessel to lockup stage.

A full year had passed without Maritime issuing the mooring on the Victorian riverbank. Crown Lands intervened in the DA after a local motel operator rang them and complained. They insisted on a Special Lease of the reserve and riverbed at the botel site. They required another more substantial EIS which they promised Council would make public. They did not do this.

While we undertook the second EIS we began construction of the small houseboat to the annoyance of council. The threatened us with legal action. We threatened Maritime with legal action. Maritime duly issued a mooring licence at Koondrook. 

We had applied for the other mooring sites along the Murray. If you have been reading carefully you may have noticed earlier that Maritime reported that they cancelled our mooring licence. However, today it appears on Google Maps (see left). Anyone can see it there opposite the Barham Caravan Park. It is labelled Murray River Reserve (NON-PV).

In 1988 a dozen government departments attended a meeting at Barham. Crown Lands accepted (by hand shake with Terry Mecham) our lease application and they became partners in the Botel Marina Project for a 5% share. 

Recently I managed to obtain (with great difficulty) copies of entries in the official "Register of Development Applications".  It shows a second (false) application for the botel. The entries have different ID numbers namely 1/87 and13/88. Both are dated 14 January 1987. The Register also shows that Crown Lands had approved our Special Lease. They appear as joint applicants on the application dated from 14 January 1987. There is no record of Council refusing H4.10 (1/87) other than the register entry.

Council officially refused 13/88 on 25/8/88. Before this date the council had always used file number H4.10 and not 1/87 to reference their correspondence. The refusal notice describes the application by file number - H4.12. However 13/88 remains undetermined according to the register. The letter of refusal gave 12 months in which to lodge an APPEAL.  

In September 1988, Maritime approved the houseboat construction and encouraged the commercial marine enterprise despite council then opposing it. Politicians then mislead the NSW Parliament. Maritime and Council then joined forces and together they confiscated the vessels and financially ruined the business in 1990. They sold the property to a Swan Hill river captain where it remains part of another business to this day. At that time, the vessels were the subject of proceeding in the NSW Land and Environment Court. The houseboats had become a huge embarrassment to the NSW Government following 4 years of deliberate maladministration directed by NSW Environment and Planning Department. 

They were also the subject of property proceedings in the Family Law Court of Australia along with child custody, child access and child tax (aka - support). Sadly, these events would cost the life of one of the parties in 1995. They also took a heavy toll my mental wellbeing. For years after, I approached Lawyers, Legal Aid, Government Ministers, Professional Standards and the Ombudsman to no avail.

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