Home' Phillip Island and San Remo Advertiser : January 4th 2018 Contents PAGE 10 - THE ADVERTISER, THURSDAY, JANUARY 4, 2018
Splendid isolation ~ French Island
C’est la vie on French Island
STEVE Ross’ voice commentary quavers as
the four-wheel drive vehicle he’s expertly steer-
ing hits another pot hole.
“This is an OKA off-road vehicle which means
on French Island we can go places you wouldn’t
normally be able to go,” Steve says into his mi-
“This island normally eats vehicles, but the
OKA has opened up access to remote parts of
the island. Really the whole island is remote.”
Since opening in mid-December, Steve has
been the guide on a new French Island visitor
activity, Naturaliste Tour, which is an extension
of the new MV Naturaliste passenger ferry oper-
ating in Westernport.
Steve offers a 1.5 hour pinnacles and wild-
life tour or alternatively a 2.5 hour history and
wildlife offering for anyone wanting a quick pe-
ruse of the hard-to-reach atoll.
The tours are just the latest new addition to
French Island, which is slowly, albeit still quite
Former Cowes resident Phil Bock, who is also
the president of the French Island Community
Association, will open the island’s first pub in
“We’re hoping it’s a case of build it and they
will come,” says Phil of the island’s 110 perma-
Across at the French Island General Store,
Tanya Hughes has run the store since July
2016, in a partnership with her family includ-
ing her mother Clare Le Serve, who is a Bass
Coast Shire councillor, and also her father Neil,
who has been French Island’s postman for 30
Tanya has introduced new additions to
French Island, including a courtesy bus run-
ning from the passenger ferry at Tankerton
through to the café.
And in major news for islanders, the café will
next year open the first petrol bowser!
“For so many years Evans in Leongatha has
come over once a month on the barge from Co-
rinella and they then visit everyone on the is-
land,” Tanya explains.
“They come in on the morning tide and it
takes them eight hours, and if people run out
in that month, they take their jerry cans over to
the mainland and lug it back.
“Now Evans will just visit us once a month
for an hour, which will make it easier for ev-
The $100,000 petrol investment in many
ways is a community service, with Tanya add-
ing that French Islanders receive a State Gov-
ernment fuel rebate for isolated areas.
The general store also has installed solar
and wind power, has 430 Facebook followers
and offers local produce in the cafe, including
French Island Vineyard wine, local jams, pre-
serves, honey and olive oil.
“Every week now I catch the barge and drive
over to San Remo IGA where they load a pallet
of groceries onto my car, which has made life
easier – in the past I had suppliers in different
directions,” Tanya says.
Given that French Islanders treasure their re-
moteness, not all changes are welcome.
Phillip Islanders are currently chewing over
the merits of a car ferry linking Cowes to Stony
Point on the Mornington Peninsula and Tanker-
However, in a clear message to the State Gov-
ernment, which is the overseeing authority
of French Island, residents have rejected the
idea of a ferry, according to a discussion pa-
per released in December (in the lead up to the
car ferry business case to be released early in
Only 11 residents on French Island, or 9 per
cent of the population, completed a car ferry
survey, with support low among those 11.
All French Island residents surveyed ranked
size of the vessel, noise and construction of
parking as important factors.
“Overall feedback from French Island con-
veyed a desire to not have a vehicle ferry termi-
nal on the island and to keep a passenger only
service,” the discussion paper states.
Phil Bock says the French Island Community
Association held a meeting about the car ferry,
where about 50 residents attended “and only
three people supported it”.
Back on the tour with Steve Ross, his com-
mentary highlights how French Islanders have
always treasured their isolation.
“French Island is not on the grid, so each land
owner has to have diesel generation or renew-
able power and is responsible for their own
water, usually from rainwater tanks or dams,”
“There is no shire so they don’t pay rates,
there’s no public transport and the 170-square
kilometre island is two-thirds national park
run by Parks Victoria.”
Telephone services to the island are provided
via a microwave link, while the only public tele-
phone is in front of the French Island General
“For internet connections, talk to your neigh-
bours about which service is most appropriate
for your location,” advises the community as-
sociation web site.
The island is an unincorporated territory
with the State Government planning minister
the responsible planning authority.
The aptly-named Perseverance Primary
School has a special dispensation from the
State Government to run with no minimum
number of children; with secondary college stu-
dents catching the ferry daily to schools on the
“French Islanders have always had to be inge-
nious to sustain themselves,” Steve says.
“It’s a unique slice of Victoria.”
Tanya Hughes is a co-owner of the French Island General Store, who next year will intro-
duce the area’s first petrol bowser.
New tour guide Steve Ross in front of the old Blue Gums Homestead on French Island, part
of the new Naturaliste Tours.
The Eco Inn, soon to be French Island’s first pub.
Phil Bock wears three hats: In February he’ll run the island’s new pub at the French Island
Eco Inn, he is the island’s only real estate agent and he’s also the president of the French
Island Community Association.
Links Archive December 20th 2017 January 10th 2018 Navigation Previous Page Next Page