Photo: Wikipedia

The long-awaited Draft Fernkloof Protected Area Management Plan (PAMP) will be open for public comment from Friday 31 May.

The public participation process with regard to the management of the Fernkloof Nature Reserve (FNR) follows a revision of the plan after a public outcry over the original plan that was made available for public comment in September 2017. A public meeting in October 2017 drew more than 500 people who strongly opposed plans to allow limited development inside the boundaries of the reserve. At the time, more than 400 letters of objection were received by the municipality and more than 16 000 people opposed to the plan signed an online petition.

According to the original draft management plan, zip-lining down the Fernkloof valley, a tea garden on top of Rotary Way or a cableway were amongst the attractions that could have been accommodated in the future. That plan was compiled by Withers Environmental Consultants and Urban Dynamics Town and Regional Planners in conjunction with the municipality and other local role players.

Apart from making provision for possible tourist attractions the plan also allowed for the extension of the reserve by another 231 ha that would have included parts of the Cliff Path in Westcliff, Maanskynbaai, the Grotto area at Grotto Beach, a portion of land on the mountain side of Gateway Centre and a section of land north of Rotary Way close to the Preekstoel Water Treatment Plant. These areas are still incorporated in the draft PAMP.

PHoto: Paula Combrink

The new draft PAMP was drawn up by Liezl de Villiers, Environmental Manager of the Overstrand Municipality, after incorporating comments from the public and other role players, such as the Fernkloof Advisory Board (FAB), CapeNature and the Botanical Society. The draft was also changed in order to comply with the structures and standards set by CapeNature for the management of nature reserves.

According to municipal Director of Infrastructure and Planning, Stephen Müller, the plan has been overhauled to incorporate not only the comments received but also to comply with all the relevant legislation. “This is the second round of public participation around the management plan and, only after this round, will the relevant comments be added, and the proposal put to council for approval. The idea is that, once this plan forms part of the bigger Integrated Management Plan (IDP) of the municipality, it can be used as the basis for applying for a budget for the management of the reserve,” he said.

An advertisement for the opening of the comment period states that the FNR surrounds and its closely integrated with the coastal tourist town of Hermanus. “In addition to the delivery of important ecosystem services, the FNR is also a source of outdoor recreation and spiritual and cultural wellbeing for visitors and the inhabitants of Hermanus, thereby contributing significantly to eco-cultural tourism in the Overstrand municipal area.

“The development of a management plan is a requirement of the National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act. This Protected Area Management Plan (PAMP) is a revision of the 2001 ‘Fernkloof Nature Reserve Management Plan, incorporating the Mossel River Valley, Maanschynbaai, a section of the Cliff Path and Hoy’s Koppie’.

“When preparing a management plan for a protected area, the management authority concerned must consult municipalities, other organs of state, local communities and other interested and affected parties which have, or may have, an interest in the area. This is the second public participation process calling for public input,” the advertisement states.

Fernkloof Advisory Board (FAB) chair, Duncan Heard, said the board is happy with the new plan in principle. “There was quite a bit that needed to be done after the initial public participation process in 2017. It has taken a long time to get to this point, but I am confident we now have a workable plan. As a matter of fact, I think the plan is on a par with other provincial, national and even international reserve management plans.”

Heard said some changes to the maps contained in the plan were still being completed. “The maps are an integral part of the plan as they show where possible future development can take place. We understand that some developments are necessary, but the new PAMP and maps will enable us to move away from any ad hoc development taking place in future.”

At the initial public meeting in 2017, the municipality indicated that the size of the Potential Development Management Unit (PDMU) will be reconsidered, after several people objected to its size and location, which extends high up into the mountains of the reserve.

Heard said the biggest challenge now is to find the funding to implement the plan. “It is of no use to have a plan on a par with the best in the world but there is no money to ensure that it is executed. Nature reserves need money to operate. The running costs of a nature reserve are high and if we do not find the money to implement the PAMP, the future of the FNR will hang in the balance.”

Pat Miller of the Hermanus Botanical Society said the notion that nature reserves and other natural attractions must attract their own funding is outdated. “To say that reserves must pay their own way is absolute nonsense. They pay their way by simply being there. These places draw visitors to our towns and thus generate income for the whole community. Placing something like a restaurant within a reserve to assist with funding is self-defeating, as it simply moves money away from establishments in towns that are already under economic pressure. We need to be aware of this and guard against something like this happening to the FNR,” she said.

Heard said they take the management of the FNR very seriously and, through this plan, they aim to ensure not only the future preservation of our exceptional natural kingdom, but also create the opportunity for more people to visit the reserve, encouraging them to cultivate respect for nature and its continued conservation.

“It is essential for the public to comment again. Residents of the Overstrand are passionate about their reserve and they need to have input in the final plan before it is approved by council. It is important to keep in mind that these processes take some time to complete,” said Heard.

The PAMP will be available for inspection during normal office hours at the Hermanus, Gansbaai and Kleinmond Libraries from 31 May 2019 to 30 June 2019 for public review. The document can also be viewed on the municipal website at www.overstrand.gov.za – Strategic Documents – Environmental Management folder.

Interested and affected parties are hereby invited to submit written comments (quoting municipal notice number) to the Overstrand Municipality, Environmental Section by ordinary mail to PO Box 20, Hermanus 7200 or via e-mail to ldevilliers@overstrand.gov.za.

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