The editorial comment in The Village NEWS of 5 June 2019 (A FAB idea for Fernkloof) refers. This makes the excellent suggestion of a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) for the management of Fernkloof Nature Reserve (FNR).
It is clear from the latest iteration of the Protected Areas Management Plan (PAMP), now released for public comment until 30 June and available on the Overstrand Municipality (OM) website, that managing FNR is beyond the capabilities of the OM. The Environmental Management Section (EMS) of the OM, under which the management of FNR rests and which is responsible for managing environmental issues for the entire Overstrand, is woefully under-resourced, both in terms of staff, and also budget.
The PAMP recognises that inadequate resources are available for managing FNR, stating that “the current human resource structure and capacity is not adequate to ensure that FNR is managed effectively and able to meet its Management Goals…” Currently the FNR-dedicated staff amounts to a senior field ranger. This section also notes that posts that have been requested have either not been approved or have not been filled.
The PAMP also gives no budget, despite a broad brush budget being a management basic, but states that the EMS and the Fernkloof Advisory Board (FAB) must appeal to Council for a FNR-specific annual budget. Mr Stephen Müller, the Director of Infrastructure and Development Planning, under which the EMS is housed, states that only after the PAMP is approved will a budget be drawn up.
This statement should be read in the context of a general Overstrand budget that makes inadequate provision for the environment – the R250 000 provided for control of invasive alien vegetation is totally inadequate even to control the spread on municipal nature reserve land. The PAMP also proposes that areas of municipal ground be incorporated into FNR. All these areas are degraded and infested with alien vegetation. The budgetary implications of addressing these inclusions are obvious.
The PAMP wants FNR to generate its own income through providing tourist-related infrastructure and opportunities, in accordance with the outdated concept of “sustainable development”. FNR generates income for the town as a whole by attracting visitors through and to its unspoilt and tranquil presence. Generating income is not a requirement for the beaches – why should it be so for FNR? Providing adequate funding to maintain this tiny and highly biodiverse reserve in as pristine a state as possible should be the proud responsibility of the OM.
Although the PAMP lists an inordinate number of actions that must be undertaken to manage FNR, there is again no indication of the resource or budget requirements for any of these.
So with no resources, either staff or monetary, how is FNR managed at present? Much of the day-to-day management of FNR is undertaken by the Hermanus Botanical Society (HBS), which has been doing so for decades, using a largely volunteer workforce and raising money where needed for specific projects.
The OM should recognise the clear advantages that formalising this highly cost-effective and efficient way of managing the reserve hold; HBS (possibly strengthened through the involvement of other local environmental organisations in a consortium) should manage the reserve and the OM should provide the funds to do so.