With the long-awaited draft Fernkloof Protected Area Management Plan (PAMP) now open for public comment, a nearly two-year process of protests, consultations and revisions is finally coming to an end. Barring any unforeseen challenges that may arise from the public participation process, the consensus is that the proposed plan meets the needs of all the concerned parties and will be approved by the Overstrand council.

The question that begs asking now is: “What next?”

The answer should be obvious: Give management control and budget responsibility to the Fernkloof Advisory Board. After all, who is better placed to ensure that the PAMP is adhered to than the people who are most passionately committed to Fernkloof?

The municipality continually says that Fernkloof needs to pay for itself, but a budget for Fernkloof will only be available once the PAMP forms part of Overstrand’s Integrated Development Plan (IDP).  This will take years and is a wasted opportunity.

Rather, in the spirit of a true public-private partnership, the municipality should sign a long-term lease agreement for R1 a year with a renamed Fernkloof Management Board. Allow them to raise funds for the conservation and running of the reserve, and to be in control of their budget.

It’s a win-win situation, and an example of the kind of forward thinking that we need to have in this municipality if we are really going to grow the economy.

The point has been made many times. Nature reserves pay for themselves by simply being there and acting as a drawcard for visitors. There is a value attached to this.

So, if the Fernkloof Board believes it can raise the money to run the reserve and that there are enough like-minded individuals who are prepared to support its operational costs, shouldn’t it be given the opportunity?

Compared to the status quo, this would be a step in the right direction. So, let us embrace change.  Let us encourage our municipal leaders to view ideas like this positively and proactively. In the end, the whole community benefits. This really is a FAB idea!

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