iSimangaliso Park: court stops rogue developers

2009-11-24 00:00

THE Durban High Court has finalised four landmark interdicts against unauthorised develo­pers in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park yesterday.

The interdicts follows a plea bargain in a criminal prosecution in the Pietermaritzburg Regional Court on October 22, when Ellisras architect Renier Roos was fined R100 000 for developing a site within the Park.

Of the amount, R70 000 was suspended for five years.

He was ordered to rehabilitate the site.

Yesterday’s interdicts involved four unauthorised developments within the Coastal Fo­rest Reserve (CFR) section of the Park. Two developments were being marketed as the Beach Camp and iNkwazi Resort. The others are named the Bronkhost Resort and Joubert sites.

The interdicts restrain the respondents from conducting commercial or tourism activities in the Park. They were ordered to remove all the structures and foreign materials on the sites at their own costs and rehabilitate them by the end of the year and, on top of that, they were ordered to pay legal costs of the applications.

In the Joubert matter the third respondent, Mkhawu Mthembu, against whom there is an interim order, was granted an extension to December 4 to show why the final order should not be gran­ted.

This was because the interim order was served on him later than the others.

The applicants, the iSimangaliso Authority, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs argued that the developers were clearing virgin forest and erec­ting structures without permission, and without an environmental impact assessment.

iSimangaliso chief executive officer Andrew Zaloumis said this amounted to economic theft as it would prejudice the biodiversity of sensitive ecological systems precluding sustainable tourism development, which would provide real benefits for neighbouring communities.

“This also denies people who comply with and follow Park rules an equal opportunity to develop commercial opportunities within the Park,” Zaloumis said.

The CFR extends from Sodwana Bay to Kosi Bay. The Park was listed in 1999 as SA’s first World Heritage Site for its ancient ecological processes, superlative natural phenomena and scenic beauty.

In terms of the World Heritage Act, the iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority is obliged to take effective and active measures for the protection, conservation and presentation of the cultural and natural heritage of the Park.

“The action of one unauthorised development on the environment is incalculable. It is the thin edge of the wedge. We appeal to would-be developers to follow due process to ensure sustainable developments and tangible community benefits through jobs creation and co-

ownership,” he said. — WR.

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