Positive response to proposed nature reserves

The public is overwhelmingly in favour of the City’s plans to proclaim 15 sites with unique and critical biodiversity as Contract Nature Reserves.

THE public is overwhelmingly in favour of the City’s plans to proclaim 15 sites with unique and critical biodiversity as Contract Nature Reserves under the Protected Areas Act (PAA), judging from the positive submissions that were received during the public participation process in February 2011.

The City first announced its plans to have 15 sites proclaimed as Contract Nature Reserves in January 2011.

It then started compiling draft Integrated Reserve Management Plans and proposed reserve boundaries that can be submitted to the Western Cape MEC for Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning for proclamation. The MEC’s Department will also be responsible for approving or refusing the City’s application.

According to Alderman Brian Watkyns, Chairperson of the City’s Planning and Environment Portfolio Committee (PEPCO), the move to have these sites proclaimed as Contract Nature Reserves stems from most of the City’s nature reserves not having adequate conservation protection.

“Many of the sites were proclaimed under the Nature Conservation Ordinance 19 of 1974 as ‘Local Authority Nature Reserves’.

Others obtained status under the Environmental Conservation Act (ECA) and some have no official conservation status at all.

In many instances the reserves have grown, and the official reserve boundaries were never adjusted to include this newly acquired land. As such the City sees it as essential that all the nature reserves under the jurisdiction of the City acquire formal protection under the National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act, 2003 (Act No. 57 of 2003),” said Watkyns.

Before submitting the proposed reserve boundaries and draft Integrated Reserve Management Plans to the MEC, the City undertook an extensive process to obtain public and stakeholder comment.

Open days, radio interviews, and newspaper articles were published on the subject. A total of 407 submissions (132 from organisations and 275 from private individuals) were received during this period.

There was an overwhelmingly positive response with all submissions supporting the proclamation of the reserves. Many groups and individuals gave valuable input and suggestions to reserve management plans.

A report on the results of the public participation process was tabled at the April PEPCO meeting as well as the meetings of the Utilities and Community Services Portfolio committees. The report will then go to the Mayoral Committee (MAYCO) and then to Council for approval.

Once approved by Council, the City will submit the proposed reserve boundaries and Integrated Reserve Management Plans to the MEC for Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning for gazetting. An additional 60 day national public commenting period is stipulated in the PAA before the MEC gazettes the nature reserves. This process will be run by CapeNature on behalf of the MEC.

City Nature Reserves to be proclaimed as per the PAA are:

  • Blouberg Nature Reserve
  • Bothasig Nature Reserve
  • Botterblom Nature Reserve
  • Bracken Nature Reserve (incl. Perdekop)
  • Durbanville Nature Reserve
  • Edith Stephens Nature Reserve
  • False Bay Nature Reserve (Rondevlei, Zeekoevlei, Pelican Park, Coastline)
  • Helderberg Nature Reserve (incl. Silverboomkloof)
  • Steenbras Nature Reserve
  • Table Bay Nature Reserve (Rietvlei, Diep River, Milnerton Race Course, Zoarvlei)
  • Tygerberg Nature Reserve
  • Uitkamp Wetland Nature Reserve
  • Witzands Aquifer Nature Reserve
  • Wolfgat Nature Reserve
  • Zandvlei Nature Reserve

The proposed reserves are largely what have always been considered and managed as nature reserves within the City.

Two notable additions are the inclusion of the Botterblom Park in Vierlanden, Durbanville, and the proposed extension of the False Bay Ecology Park to include portions of the False Bay Coastline and become the False Bay Nature Reserve.

A large number of comments were received proposing the proclamation of Diep River, Rietvlei, Zoarvlei and Milnerton Race Course amalgamated into one nature reserve. This site will be proclaimed as the “Table Bay Nature Reserve”.

The individual components will then be seen as sections of the overarching nature reserve. They will, however, retain autonomy with regards to any Friends Groups or Liaison Committees which are already in place.

Harmony Flats Nature Reserve in the Strand is already a proclaimed Provincial Nature Reserve which is an equivalent status to a Contract Nature Reserve. This reserve will therefore not be going through the proclamation process, but a draft management plan has been developed for the site.

Watkyns said he believes this proclamation process is necessary, as Cape Town’s rich biodiversity is under threat and there is a real chance that many species may be lost forever if action is not taken soon.

“Cape Town is well known for its rich and unique biodiversity, boasting over 3250 native plant species and 19 different vegetation types. Much of the city’s biodiversity is unfortunately threatened with extinction, and to date 13 of Cape Town’s plant species are globally extinct or extinct in the wild. A total of 319 species are Red Listed as threatened with extinction.”

“This is of huge concern as biodiversity provides us with critical ecosystem-services like food, shelter and protection against flooding and wind-blown sand. It also underpins the tourism-industry, and offers critical resilience to the impacts of global climate change. By retaining and conserving natural systems in our urban environment we can maintain and enhance these ecosystem-services, and make Cape Town a more sustainable city,” Watkyns added.

Cape Town’s impressive system of open spaces contributes greatly to its appeal as a prime tourism-destination and gives the city its natural beauty. The City is currently managing more than 30 natural areas which are scattered across Cape Town, all of which form part of the network of open spaces. Sites like these provide critical refuges for threatened biodiversity, as well as important services to the public such as education, recreation and conservation of our natural heritage.

Source: Cape Town

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