Anger at Midmar fees hike

2012-03-14 00:00

MIDMAR Dam Resort may lose out on hosting a wide variety of sporting events due to a new policy that requires event organisers to pay “staging fees” up front.

The resort is the venue of the famous Midmar Mile and also hosts a number of other sporting related activities such as cycling, canoeing and triathlons.

Many organisers have chosen the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife venue in the past for its central location, its range of accommodation and the size of the reserve.

Recently resort manager Themba Mbuyazi sent organisers an e-mail that stated: “From April onwards there will be a site/staging fee of R8 000 payable before the event day.

“The gate fee for participators and spectators will still be applicable.”

The event organisers said they would be looking at alternative venues for their events in future.

Wayne Riddin, organiser of the Midmar Mile, said he believed the new policy was unfair and he has raised a number of issues about Midmar with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.

“There are always alternatives and I have raised a few issues with them and am waiting for a response to the issues I have raised.

“Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife benefits from the Midmar Mile as they get the gate takings and all the accommodation is fully booked.

“In addition I have a contract with them for which I pay a substantial fee.”

Said Andre Booysen of Collegians Harriers, who jointly runs the Umgeni Water Marathon based at the Midmar Dam: “Running is not a sport that attracts top earners. Many runners are middle- to low-income earners. The top earners play golf or do 4x4 trails.

“When we charge entry to a race we cannot charge too much as the runners will not come.

“The staging fee will mean we have to charge more and everyone suffers.

“We paid R21 000 to Ezemvelo last year in gate fees and the accommodation was fully booked, and our event gives them exposure. People who come to run or to support a runner will see the beauty of the resort and they will want to come back. We feel the staging fee is now too much.”

Booysen said that when they staged the event they had to bring all their sound facilities, food facilities and even mobile toilets as the toilets at the dam had been bricked up. He believes the resort is not offering value for money.

Bruce Acutt of Fezela Canoe Club said they would no longer be hosting their canoe events at Midmar Dam unless Ezemvelo was prepared to negotiate.

“We are a non-profit organisation and we don’t charge exorbitant fees. We will make another plan.”

Kevin McQueen of the New Germany Scout Group, who brings an annual scouting event to the Midmar Dam resort, also expressed concern about the new fee.

“We usually hold an annual camp at Orient Park campsite and last year we had 700 campers. They all pay for the camp in advance and we pay direct into Ezemvelo’s account.

“I am concerned that this new fee is just to fund the gravy train,” he said.

“We use the event to raise funds to pay for running expenses for our scout group. The money is used to pay for our basic running costs.

“We end up without making a profit each year. Now I have to find a further R8 000 before I start to cover costs.

“I will have to see how much the people are prepared to pay per night to camp to determine if it is a viable concern. It may not happen again.”

Damian Bradley of B-active Sports Marketing, which recently staged its triathlon event, the Midlands Ultra Triathlon, at the dam, said they received the e-mail from Ezemvelo on the day of the race.

“We did not have to pay this time, but next time it will be a big issue. Our race expenses are covered by sponsors and we don’t have the extra money lying around.”

He said they had 650 competitors and 500 spectators who came to the venue and paid entrance fees for two days and many stayed over.

“I don’t believe we are getting any value for money, our events bring them publicity.”

Albert Falls Dam has been suggested as an alternative venue, especially for water sports, but the accommodation is limited and crocodiles have been sighted regularly on the banks.

Ezemvelo marketing manager Siphelele Luthululi said staging fees would be charged according to the magnitude of events.

“Ezemvelo has to carry the cost of rehabilitating the area after the event has been staged,” she said.

“It should be noted that Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife adopted a repositioning strategy in 2009 due to the government subsidy being cut year on year.”

This, Luthululi explained, was to encourage the organisation to be able to sustain its conservation activities by becoming less dependent on the taxpayers’ money and finding new revenue streams.

“The money charged for the staging also contributed to the community levy fund, which supports and benefits the surrounding community,” Luthululi said.

“Proper consultations were done with the event organisers on time. Those that had already booked were automatically allowed to use the venue at the already agreed cost.”

Last month the gate fee at Midmar was the source of controversy during the Midmar Mile after Ezemvelo sent an e-mail telling Golden Rhino card holders they would be allowed in for the Midmar Mile weekend and then, on the day, they were told they had to pay.

Card holders who pay an annual fee of nearly R500 to gain free day access to all Ezemvelo KZN Parks were told they could not enter the Midmar Dam resort during special events and had to pay the gate fee in cash.

Many people contacted The Witness, furious about the issue. Now the event organisers have been told about the “staging fee” and they are angry.

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