The editorial comment relating to Fernkloof (The Village NEWS 5 June 2019) refers. It is incredibly refreshing to read that the newspaper, in its editorial, is taking a stand on the management of arguably the crown jewel of the Overstrand and Hermanus – Fernkloof Nature Reserve (FNR).
While I am much less confident that the revised management plan (PAMP) out for public comment will – or indeed should – be accepted in its current form, the question is what now is pertinent? It has been self-evident for a number of years that the Overstrand Municipality is ill-equipped to preserve and protect FNR. The debacle surrounding the management plan put out for comment in 2017 being but one example. It simply does not have the expertise and is unwilling to make funds available to procure such expertise, in order to adequately and effectively manage and protect FNR.
There is a school of thought that says the municipality should be making funds available to support this unique and special gift we have, as a priority, before disbursing funds to any other activities, as it generates revenue by attracting an enormous number of visitors to our shores. The fact that it exists as it does is largely due to its having been managed and protected by the Hermanus community ably led by Hermanus Botanical Society (Botsoc) for many decades.
The argument that it should pay for itself is just nonsense. Of course, the municipality has many responsibilities to its residents, but balance is essential. Our argument would be that without protection and preservation of our natural resources, our visitor numbers would fall dramatically and affect our number one income generator, tourism.
The municipality is also clearly unable or unwilling to understand that FNR is just that – a nature reserve. It is not real estate to develop into tourist attractions (as language in the revised PAMP still allows for).
Thus, let the debate about a public-private partnership agreement begin. The municipality has signed leases with developers of the De Mond caravan site and the so-called Hermanus Sports Club (HSC) for 45 years, so the precedent is there. The entity to manage FNR should consist mainly of botanists and nature lovers. Botsoc itself has huge amounts of expertise and institutional knowledge.
All that is needed is for the municipality to commit to the idea in order for the debate to take form and for proposals to be put forward. Over to you, municipality…