West Australian - April 15, 2003

WEST AUSTRALIAN Tuesday April 15

Hardship hardens family's resolve to stay
Tony Barras

TRYING to survive in a business climate of confusion and inconsistency has only hardened the resolve of the family-owned and run Coral Bay Adventures.

Doug, June, Marnie and Yasmin Hunt run one of three burgeoning businesses that may be forced out of their ticketing office by the end of this year.

Because the State Government has slapped a building moratorium on Coral Bay, many rapidly expanding businesses have been unable to rent premises. Most businessmen and women in the settlement have been forced to live and work out of caravans for years.

When the Hunts took over the business nine years ago it was a small operation boasting a coral-viewing boat, access to scenic flights and some expertise in snorkelling. It now has 22 full-time and casual staff and was the first company in Coral Bay to dive on the great whale sharks.

Until recently, the Hunts had the blessing of the Carnarvon Shire and CALM to run their ticketing offices out of a carpark, on CALM land. But after rival businesses complained about an unfair commercial advantage because of their location, it now seems the Hunts have until December 31 to move on. Where, exactly, no one knows.

Carnarvon Shire director of planning Steve Thompson admitted that some bylaws are enforced and others are not. He understands the frustration but adds that the shire's hands are tied until the State acts. And it won't do so until the long-awaited sewerage system is operational, which could be another two years.

Meanwhile, the Hunts lobby politicians over makeshift tourism licences where some operators pay a levy of $1 a head to dive with whale sharks while others, like themselves, pay $20.

"We're here to stay and we're going to fight to change all these crazy laws," Marnie Hunt said yesterday. "We employ more than 20 people, many of whom live in appalling conditions so they can work here. Coral Bay has a future and we're going to be a part of it."

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