Another vandalism attack has propelled the old Sale police station into the spotlight yet again, stirring questions concerning the building’s current status and generating public health and safety concerns.

The old station has been abandoned for close to 10 years. Photos: Zoe Askew

The old Sale police station, located on York Street, just a stone’s throw away from the ever-popular Lake Guthridge and Gippsland Grammar’s early childhood education centre and junior campus, has been vacant since 2015.

The abandoned site has become an increasingly popular target for vandals and is a known refuge for the unhoused.

Sale’s former police station was recently subject to another destructive vandalism attack which left shards of glass strewed around the building’s edge and onto the adjacent public footpath, adding to the extensive debris carpeting the site.

Large pointed shards of glass protrude from windows; electrical wires, fire hoses, and other miscellaneous objects peep through decimated entryways.

Racially and sexually insensitive obscenities cover the red-brick walls and the few surviving undamaged doors.

Vandalism is high at the old Sale police station.

Since the building was abandoned eight years ago, the old Sale police station has been rumoured to be a popular refuge for the unhoused.

Accumulating evidence from increasing food packaging in and around the property, shuffling sounds from within the abandoned building, and trolleys piled with miscellaneous items warrant the widespread social belief that the building is a refuge.

Sale Police have received ongoing reports of people dwelling inside the abandoned building, all but cementing the presence of squatters with the local emergency service confirming the removal of unhoused individuals in the past.

While evidence inside the building leads Sale Police to believe people have sought refuge in the former police station, reports of alleged trespassing are far more common, with the abandoned building reported to attract youths and vandals wishing to add to the property’s increasing dilapidation.

Recently, on June 14, police responded to reports of alleged trespassing at the York Street property.

Following a search of the site, police took three men in for questioning: a 25-year-old man and a 30-year-old man from Sale regarding alleged trespassing, and a 37-year-old Golden Beach man regarding alleged trespassing and possessing a prohibited weapon.

All three men were interviewed and released pending further enquiries.

The former Sale police station continues to be a source of concern for nearby residents.

For the past two years, Paula Collins has lived adjacent to the old Sale police station, her townhouse facing the Gippsland Grammar school across the road.

“Every weekend, people are going in there, school kids going in there,” Ms Collins said.

“We hear the hammering, the banging, the smashing of broken glass; there are times I have actually been really scared.”

Trespassers have thrown debris at her dogs and launched items onto her neighbour’s balcony, with Ms Collins’ residency also the target of multiple robberies.

On top of the regular frightening 2am awakenings, as trespassers further decimate and vandalise the former Sale police station, leaving Ms Collins scared in her own home, the neighbouring resident holds increasing concerns for the health and safety of those that do enter the York Street site.

From the masses of broken glass and used needles to the evident structural damage, Ms Collins stresses the very real dangers of entering the old Sale police station, fearing it is only a matter of time before someone is seriously injured.

“It is a real worry,” she said.

The site presents a number of dangers, including shattered glass.

It is not only neighbouring residents expressing concerns over the old Sale police station, with Nationals Member for Gippsland South Danny O’Brien receiving a complaint about the abandoned building from a concerned citizen just last week.

The local MP said it had been eight years since the opening of the new Sale police station, and it is disappointing to see the former site left in its current state.

“This site is located on Lake Guthridge and has real potential to be used for the great benefit of the community,” Mr O’Brien said.

“Instead, it has fallen victim to vandals and squatters, resulting in an eyesore for the community and a headache for neighbouring properties.

“This is a prime location close to the centre of town and could be used for boutique hotel accommodation, a restaurant, café or any other number of uses for the community.”

Adding to the list of concerns, the dilapidated York Street site, rife with profane graffiti and potentially harmful debris such as glass, metal rods, shards of wood and broken cans, is a magnet for delinquent youths and adults searching to cause disruption, posing a possible risk to public health and safety, particularly for students attending the nearby education facilities.

While Gippsland Grammar has not received any formal complaints about the York Street site, the old Sale police station is a common topic of subject among parents, with many regarding the abandoned building as a cause for concern.

Since local authorities moved to the current Sale police station located on the corner of Foster and Reeve Streets in March 2015, the Wellington Shire Council have maintained a keen interest in the site: however, the council has no jurisdiction in the responsibility for the maintenance of the property.

“In line with the Port of Sale Master Plan, Wellington Shire Council acknowledges the strategic importance and community desire for investment into the former police station site, located on York Street in Sale,” a Wellington Shire Council spokesperson said.

“This process is overseen by the Victorian Government and can take time to resolve.

“Council continues to advocate to the state government to prioritise this work and to ensure responsible upkeep until an outcome is finalised.”

Earlier this year, Mr O’Brien sought answers on why the site of the former Sale police station on York Street has been left to fall into disrepair.

The Gippsland Times received a response from the Department of Treasury and Finance (DTF) as the government department responsible for the site.

“The now-surplus former police station site is being prepared for sale in-line with Victorian Government Landholding Policy, and we are consulting with traditional land owners,” a spokesperson for the Department of Treasury and Finance said.

However, the York Street site is no longer part of DTF’s remit; the responsibility now falls to the Department of Transport & Planning (DTP).

The site has hardly been maintained.

The DTP is responsible for managing the sale of surplus land on behalf of all Victorian government departments, including the site of the former Sale police station.

The old Sale police station is one of several surplus Crown land properties across the state, the sale of which requires consent from Traditional Owners under the Native Title Act 1993.

“We’re ensuring that surplus government land is identified and put to a use that provides the best value for Victorians, with proceeds from the sale of land reinvested into important new infrastructure such as schools, hospitals and public transport,” a Department of Transport & Planning Spokesperson said.

“As the old Sale police station sits on crown land, we are continuing to engage with Traditional Owners on its future use as required.”

While the DTP continue to engage and work collaboratively with Traditional Owners to meet legal obligations on land use activities, Victoria Police remains the owner of the old Sale police station and is responsible for site maintenance.

While Mr O’Brien acknowledges that there have been some challenges with the native title process relating to Crown land sales, he believes that the state has had more than enough time to work through these issues.

“We can’t just keep sitting on our hands. I have been raising this matter with the relevant Ministers and in Parliament for many years now,” Mr O’Brien said.

“The Andrews Labor Government has had eight years to sort this out, and it is past time for them to get on with the job.

“The last thing we want is for this site to be left to remain an eyesore. Given its location, it has great potential to be of good use to the local community.”

As the old Sale police station continues to succumb victim to vandals, squatters and trespassers, Victoria Police will continue to conduct highly visible patrols in the area.

“Any incidents of trespassing or vandalism reported to police will be investigated,” a Victoria Police spokesperson said.

“If you see or hear something you think is suspicious, please contact your local police station or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.”

Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation did not respond to multiple requests to comment.