[DEBATE] : (Fwd) Pro-poor, anti-poor: Sutcliffe's ja-nee on rates and beach access
pbond at mail.ngo.za
Wed Apr 29 08:59:47 BST 2009
R195m unpaid rates to be written off
April 29, 2009 Edition 1
THE eThekwini Municipality is poised to write off about R195 million in
outstanding rates which, municipal manager Michael Sutcliffe said, was
unlikely to be recovered.
The money related to old debt on residential properties valued at less
than R120 000 and vacant land valued less than R30 000, both of which
ceased to incur rates after the municipality's new rates policy came
into effect on July 1 last year.
Sutcliffe said at yesterday's executive committee meeting that the R195m
related to 131 489 properties and was entirely accumulated before July
A report tabled before the committee indicated that the affected
ratepayers were already struggling to make their rates payments before
July last year, "causing the debt to accumulate with no reasonable hope
of this debt ever being paid".
The report, compiled by revenue services head Louis Kruger, said it made
sense to clear the city's books of this debt and allow the customers to
start with a clean slate. The city would save because it would not have
to pay for debt recovery on relatively small individual amounts.
The proposed write-off was endorsed by all political parties.
The committee yesterday also agreed to the creation of a special rating
area around Giba Gorge, which will see residential ratepayers having
their rates randage increased from R0.009 to R0.0091 to contribute to
the upkeep of the environmentally sensitive area.
About 160 rateable properties will be affected. The results of a survey
conducted by the municipality among 157 affected households revealed
that 105 supported the plan.
However, some residents indicated in March that they were unhappy
because the rates randage could increase further after three years.
Also agreed to yesterday, with the DA and MF dissenting, was the
development of six housing units in Phoenix, which will result in 60
percent of the Centenary Park in the area being lost.
matthew.savides at inl.co.za
Development's feasibility still not certain
Vetch's plan 'sets wrong precedent'
April 29, 2009 Edition 1
The decision to approve a new yachting marina and luxury apartments at
Vetch's Pier in Durban had set a negative environmental precedent that
would encourage other property developers to privatise further stretches
of public property on the KwaZulu-Natal coastline.
This is one of several objections to the proposed small-craft harbour
development raised by the Wildlife and Environment Society of South
Africa (Wessa), Coastwatch KZN and other interest groups as part of a
formal appeal process that expired yesterday.
In a submission to Environmental Affairs MEC Mtholephi Mthimkhulu, the
society also argued that the multimillion-rand project at the Durban
harbour mouth ran the risk of becoming a financial white elephant that
would have to be subsidised in perpetuity by Durban ratepayers.
The project, a 50:50 venture between the eThekwini Municipality and
private developers, was given conditional authorisation by Mthimkhulu's
department earlier this year after an environmental impact assessment
process lasting almost five years.
The society, represented by environmental law attorney Kirsten Youens,
also argued that officials in Mthimkhulu's department had displayed bias
in favour of the developers and failed to give a fair hearing to
Youens stressed that the society and Coastwatch had no objection to
redevelopment of the landward side of the run-down Point area, but was
concerned solely with the implications of development on a public beach
and in sea.
She also argued that the approval of the project was legally flawed in
several respects because of uncertainty about who actually owned the sea
and sections of land below the high-water mark.
She said Mthimkhulu's officials had given conditional approval to the
project, although they acknowledged the uncertainty about land ownership.
"Granting an authorisation before establishing who owns the land on
which the development is to take place is similar to placing the
proverbial cart before the horse," said Youens.
The decision to authorise the project also went against the spirit of
the new Integrated Coastal Management Act, which stated that the coast
belonged to all the people of South Africa, said Youens.
Wessa has also raised several questions about the financial feasibility
of the "elitist" small-craft harbour proposal and the potential conflict
of interest of the municipality acting as both developer and regulator.
Youens argued that a comprehensive cost-benefit and risk analysis had
not been available to the public.
Tandi Breetzke, a former senior employee of Mthimkhulu's department,
also cautioned against approving a development that appeared to
contradict the department's own policy of avoiding development below the
high-water mark unless it was crucial.
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