Landown­ers stay pos­i­tive

With its plen­ti­ful water­front land, beau­ti­ful scenery, unique her­itage, eco-tourism fea­tures and out­door re­cre­ation op­por­tu­ni­ties, Cos­sack has the po­ten­tial to be a great place to live, as

Pilbara News - - News - Tom Zaun­mayr dis­cov­ered.

It was these words scrawled on the front of a Shire of Roe­bourne de­vel­op­ment plan in 2007 which pegged the fu­ture of Cos­sack as a coastal out­post per­fect for tourists and res­i­dents want­ing to take the pace out of life.

It was a dream landown­ers of the ghost town were in­vested in — 25 years ear­lier a mora­to­rium had been placed on de­vel­op­ment in Cos­sack un­til a master plan was pro­duced.

This was not the first time they had heard of bold plans for Cos­sack, and it would not be the last.

An­other decade on and lit­tle has changed. There has been no hous­ing de­vel­op­ment in Cos­sack, no res­i­dents less the care­tak­ers, no re­li­able power or wa­ter con­nec­tion and landown­ers are no closer to re­al­is­ing their as­pi­ra­tions.

There is a bea­con of hope in Ngar­luma Yind­jibarndi Founda- tion’s plans to turn the town into a liv­ing historical vil­lage, but hopes have been held and prom­ises made be­fore to no avail.

For Cos­sack landowner Leigh McNab, the string of dis­ap­point­ments since her fam­ily pur­chased land in the 1990s has been frus­trat­ing.

“Even­tu­ally we wanted to build on a few of our blocks and live out here, and for the kids to have land out here,” she said.

“You sort of lose hope though when ev­ery time you hear some­thing is go­ing to hap­pen it falls through.”

Ms McNab said the landown­ers wanted a change in build­ing codes to al­low them to build without power and wa­ter, opt­ing to go green with so­lar pan­els and wa­ter tanks in­stead.

The ab­sence of de­vel­op­ment isn’t for lack of try­ing. In 2005 when WA La­bor front­bencher Fran Lo­gan was her­itage min­is­ter in the Gal­lop ad­min­is­tra­tion he hailed the po­ten­tial for Cos­sack to be­come the “Broome of the Pil­bara”.

There was also ar­chae­ol­o­gist Gaye Nay­ton, who in 2002 started work on a plan to es­tab­lish an ar­chae­o­log­i­cal trust to develop Cos­sack as a re­search and in­ter­pre­ta­tion cen­tre.

In a 2005 Pil­bara News ar­ti­cle, Ms Nay­ton lamented the lack of re­sponse from the Shire of Roe­bourne to the plan.

In 2010 for­mer plan­ning min­is­ter John Day said it was the gov­ern­ment’s in­ten­tion to develop a po­ten­tial area for low­im­pact tourism sim­i­lar to the Kim­ber­ley’s Eco Beach Re­sort.

Then in 2012 a meet­ing be­tween the Depart­ment of Plan­ning and landown­ers ended with the di­rec­tor-gen­eral stat­ing the

depart­ment would pre­pare de­sign guide­lines for Cos­sack in con­sul­ta­tion with the landown­ers and lo­cal gov­ern­ment, which was as­sumed would be con­cluded by mid-2013.

Two years later a let­ter from Mr Day to Min­ing and Pas­toral MLC Stephen Daw­son said stake­hold­ers could be as­sured the State Gov­ern­ment was striv­ing for an out­come which met the ex­pec­ta­tions of the landown­ers.

This is a small snap­shot of the cor­re­spon­dence which has been go­ing on since 1983, and is still on­go­ing to­day.

It is a bat­tle which two landown­ers have al­ready died fight­ing.

Landowner Alan Wil­son said Cos­sack was eas­ily mar­ketable with the right in­fra­struc­ture in place, if only all lev­els of gov­ern­ment could get their acts to­gether. “Un­for­tu­nately they have been through four, five, six master plans and we have still not got a de­fin­i­tive plan on how to develop and progress Cos­sack,” he said.

“We need to have a car­a­van park so peo­ple can stay in­stead of just driv­ing through, and some of the ideas around the high-qual­ity camp­ing in­fra­struc­ture . . . can be put in eas­ily.

“The landown­ers would like to be part of the de­vel­op­ment and part of the ex­pan­sion of tourism here.”

One is­sue which con­stantly pops up when de­vel­op­ing his­toric precincts is the need to pre­serve her­itage. In the case of sev­eral Cos­sack landown­ers, they are the her­itage.

Mr Wil­son is a di­rect de­scen­dant of Wil­liam Shake­speareHall, who founded Cos­sack in 1885 and is buried at the ceme­tery there.

Ms McNab’s Cos­sack roots re­late to the man who sailed into what was then known as Tien Tsin Har­bour aboard the Mys­tery, Peter Hed­land.

Fel­low landowner Ge­off Van Waar­den­berg can trace his lin­eage back to Cos­sack ship­wright An­drew Stone­house Thomp­son.

Miffed by a 2005 re­port which claimed the 100-year flood level “came up to the Bond Store gut­ters”, Mr Van Waar­den­berg and sev­eral landown­ers took it upon them­selves to prove it wrong.

Their work found the flood level had been ex­ag­ger­ated by 3-4m.

“It only needed a lit­tle bit of work from us to prove the re­port wrong, that didn’t in­grain a lot of con­fi­dence in it for us,” he said.

Mr Van Waar­den­berg wants to build a bed and break­fast in Cos­sack, a dream his great-great grand­fa­ther also held.

“We poured a fair bit of money into get­ting back into Cos­sack be­cause we wanted to build the fam­ily house and fol­low the di­rec­tion the Shire wanted to go,” he said.

“If I knew it would have been this lengthy process I wouldn’t have done it, it has caused too much heartache.

“In say­ing that, if this (NYFL plan) works out we will go ahead with the same en­thu­si­asm we have al­ways had, but it has cer­tainly knocked the wind out of us.”

Like all of the landown­ers Mr Van Waar­den­berg is wary of his con­fi­dence in NYFL’s vi­sion.

Cos­sack landowner and de­scen­dent of Peter Hed­land, Leigh McNab. Pic­tures: Tom Zaun­mayr and Cos­sack Landown­ers

A pearl lug­ger un­load­ing at the wharf.

A hard hat pearl diver in the late 1950's.

Cos­sack landowner Alan Wil­son.

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