Deadline to repair road

2016-04-22 10:13
The damaged road leading to Cathedral Peak forces a vehicle to drive in the middle of the road

The damaged road leading to Cathedral Peak forces a vehicle to drive in the middle of the road (Supplied)

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Pietermaritzburg - A high court judge has given the KZN Nature Conservation Board two years to finally repair and resurface the road leading to Cathedral Peak Hotel in the Drakensberg.

Judge Daya Pillay refused to be swayed by arguments that the board, which falls under Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, needed time to deal with various funding issues, saying the battle has gone on for eight years. “If the matter is left open-ended there is no pressure [on the board to complete the road],” she said, adding that notwithstanding previous court orders the state had apparently not felt sufficient pressure to get things going.

The high court dispute between the William van der Riet Family Trust, which owns Cathedral Peak Hotel, and the board about repairs and maintenance of the road — said to be in a “shocking” condition — dates back to May 2008.

In terms of an agreement with the Trust, the board is obliged to maintain the road in terms of an agreement.

However, the Trust’s attorney Rob McCarthy said nothing at all has been done despite various undertakings and despite previous court orders.

The D394 leads through Cathedral Peak reserve (under the control of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife), and also serves Ezemvelo’s own Didima nature reserve.

According to court papers large sections of the 6,9 km stretch of road are severely cracked or crumbling away at the sides and motorists have to negotiate massive potholes to reach their destination.

The road is used by local and international tourists visiting the famous Drakensberg area.

After talks prompted by Judge Pillay were held yesterday between legal teams for the Trust, the board and the Department of Transport (which was joined to the proceedings) only partial agreement was reached on the way forward.

The bone of contention was the Trust’s insistence that the court order should impose a deadline on the board to finally revamp the road.

However, Judge Pillay agreed that the board had to be put on terms and ordered that they have one year from the date on which final repairs and resurfacing commences (on or before April 30, 2017) to complete the work.

This means that the roadworks must be finished by April 30, 2018.

She also ordered that if “any event” arises which may cause a delay in the completion of the work, the board must immediately notify the other parties and apply to court for an extension of time to finish the work.

Meanwhile emergency repairs — for which the board said it currently has R2 million available — will start on or before May 30 this year.

McCarthy said that if the board had “spent less money on litigation and more on the road” most of the road could have been repaired by now.

He said the William van der Riet Family Trust first went to court in 2008 to force the board to repair the road.

On April 20,2010 the Board was ordered by court to maintain the road and at that stage had to pay the Trust’s costs of more than R300 000, he said.

However, the board had failed to meet its obligations and in June 2010 the Trust lodged a contempt of court application against the board. This resulted in an agreement (which was made an order of court) in March 2011 whereby the Board was given three years to repair, maintain and upgrade the road.

The presiding judge also ordered that the board had to take steps to ensure sufficient funding and “appropriate budgetary steps” were taken to ensure the road was properly repaired, maintained and upgraded within the three year period ending April 30, 2014.

Again the board did not comply.

As a result the case came back to court before Judge Pillay who found there was no explanation why it took more than eight years to repair the 6,9 km stretch of road. She ordered the board to pay the costs of yesterday’s application.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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