[DEBATE] : (Fwd) Van Schalkwyk surrenders power over port ecosystems
pbond at mail.ngo.za
Mon Apr 13 18:54:39 BST 2009
Business to welcome harbour exemptions
April 13, 2009 Edition 1
ENVIRONMENT minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk has agreed to exempt the
inner sections of nine South African ports from the strict development
limitations of the new Coastal Management Act.
The act, gazetted in February, is intended to protect South Africa's
coastline and estuaries from degradation or "inappropriate development"
and also to ensure reasonable public access to all coastal public property.
The recent decision to exempt the inner working-areas of local harbours
from the act is likely to be welcomed by harbour-related businesses,
which have existing long-term leases or future expansion plans.
Significantly, however, Van Schalkwyk has not extended the exemption to
include the Vetch's Pier area of the Durban harbour mouth, where the
Durban Point Development Company plans to reclaim part of the sea to
build a yachting marina, luxury apartments and hotel.
The exemption follows recent briefings to a parliamentary select
committee on land and environmental affairs by officials of the
Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Transnet and the
Department of Public Enterprises. Van Schalkwyk is empowered by the Act
to exempt areas of coastal public property and allow reclamation of land
in the sea, if this is in the "national interest or in the interest of
national security" and is ratified by Parliament.
Van Schalkwyk's officials said that a primary reason for excluding inner
portions of harbours from the act was to allow Transnet to sign
long-term financial leases to fund port infrastructure expansions as
there was concern that port operations and income could be compromised
if coastal public property inside harbours fell under environmental
affairs minister's control.
Transnet is believed to have applied for an exemption for almost 1
000km2 of "extended" port areas, an area including significant chunks of
sea in Table Bay, Cape Town, which a Dubai and UK-based consortium was
hoping to reclaim in partnership with Transnet and V&A Waterfront
Holdings. But according to the minutes of the select committee, Van
Schalkwyk's department had now agreed to a much-reduced exemption area.
In Durban harbour (see map) the exemption area appears to cover the
water surface of Durban Bay, an area of land surrounding the inner
harbour and a fingerlike extension of the new harbour entrance channel.
Although President Kgalema Motlanthe assented to the new legislation in
the Government Gazette on February 11, the Act states that it will only
come into effect "on a date to be determined" by the President and
proclaimed in the Government Gazette.
Critics sceptical of Vetch's decision
April 13, 2009 Edition 1
CRITICS are upset that KZN Environment MEC Mtholephi Mthimkhulu has
declined to make public a departmental document on whether to approve or
reject Durban's Point small craft harbour.
They want to study the "final draft" document, completed on December 1
last year, because they suspect it contains a recommendation sharply at
odds with the final approval decision announced two months later by KZN
Premier S'bu Ndebele.
Mthimkhulu has refused requests to release the document on the grounds
that it is merely "a draft intended for further consideration".
However, some of those opposed to the development argue that this
provides a signal that there are sharp divisions in his department on
whether to approve the project, bolstering claims about political
The proposed multimillion-rand seafront development is located at the
entrance to Durban harbour, centred on a new yachting marina and
including plans for a 25-storey-high tower hotel, several apartment
blocks, offices, shops and restaurants.
The developers, which include the eThekwini Municipality, the Malaysian
group Rocpoint and Vulindlela, have promised to boost the city's rates
coffers by at least R100 million a year, contribute almost R2 billion to
the country's gross domestic product and create between 4 500 and 7 100
The decision to approve the project was announced by Premier S'bu
Ndebele during his state of the province addresss on February 13.
Ndebele's announcement led to criticism from environmental law expert
However, Ndebele strongly denied that it was wrong for him to make the
announcement or that he had interfered in the decision-making process in
any way. He also laid an official complaint with Press Council ombudsman
about a story that appeared in The Mercury on February 19.
Shortly after Ndebele's announcement, several objectors to the project
wrote to Mthimkhulu's office to request access to the minutes of all
meetings held by the Department of Agriculture and Environmental Affairs
on the approval process.
In a series of letters signed by acting department head Siddiq Adams and
senior officials Sarah Allan and William Mngoma, the department said it
had been unable to trace any minutes of meetings - other than records of
a task team meeting held in the Rocpoint boardroom in May 2007.
In an affidavit from Sarah Allan (manager, environmental services,
southern region) it said no minutes existed for meetings held on April
16 and July 14 last year "other than … a draft record of decisions that
encompassed the resolutions of these meetings".
However, in response to a request from an objector who asked to see the
document, Mthimkhulu's office wrote: "We are of the view that you are
not entitled to have access to, nor are we obliged to furnish you with,
a document that was a draft intended for further consideration and
discussion amongst department officials before being finalised. You have
been furnished with a copy of the final document."
Several organisations and individuals have lodged objections, and
Mthimkhulu's office has also extended the appeal process until April 28.
University of KwaZulu-Natal Yacht Club commodore Charlotte Marshall said
the Vetch's decision would destroy Durban's ability to host any world
Durban Paddleski Club chairman Johnny Vassilaros argued that the
authorisation was "fatally flawed" since there was no clarity on who
owned some of the land.
While some watersport clubs had signed an agreement with the developer,
Vassilaros claimed that they had had "a figurative gun held against
More information about the Debate-list