West Australian - April 15, 2003

WEST AUSTRALIAN Tuesday April 15

French lease a lesson in title
Tony Barrras

YOU could say that the French family are on the verge of being done over not once but twice when it comes to freehold at Coral Bay.

In 1969, more than 240ha was excised from their Cardabia Station lease with the intention of creating and gazetting two townsites, one north - Mauds Landing - and one south, now the Coral Bay settlement.

In return, they were given an option on a lease of just 0.6ha that surrounded an old family holiday shack overlooking Bills Bay. The cottage, built in 1933 by Carol French's grandfather, was used by numerous cockies around the Gascoyne as a getaway and fishing hut.

Things have changed. The Frenchs sold their Cardabia lease to an indigenous land corporation, the old shack is long gone and has been replaced by a modest holiday house for which the family originally paid a peppercorn rent.

But as Coral Bay rapidly expanded so did the cost of the lease and as the agreement nears its end, the Frenchs are worried they may soon be without a retreat that has been in the family for generations and on land originally excised from their station lease.

The family have tried to secure freehold title and are more baffled than angry that they have been unsuccessful.

They are quietly seeking some form of security from the Department of Lands Administration and have just received a substantial bill for a sewerage system which is not yet operational.

"I think you could say our family has always done the right thing as far as Coral Bay is concerned and we will continue to, regardless of what the outcome on this place is," Ric French said.

"But we have a real attachment to this land and I think most people would understand where we're coming from. It's been in our family for a very long time. It comes down to tenure. If some people can get freehold land title, why shouldn't others?"

Jim Robinson, Ric's stepfather and a former Cardabia manager, said the current system of land title did nothing to encourage new businesses or jobs.

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