Durban ski club fights counci

2008-02-16 00:00

In what promises to be a David and Goliath battle, Durban’s smallest watersport club, the Durban Paddleski Club, and the eThekwini municipality are headed for a court showdown after the sportsmen decided to legally challenge the eviction notice with which they were served over the festive season.

Shortly after leaving his lawyer’s offices yesterday, chairman Johnny Vassilaros said the club will take the eviction and the possible destruction of the clubhouse to the highest court if it has to.

This is the next step in a protracted battle between the municipality and watersport clubs on Vetch’s Beach, which have been told to make way for the development of the small craft harbour on which many believe the future viability of the Point Waterfront precinct rests.

The Durban Point Development Company (DPDC), 50% owned by the eThekwini municipality, has struggled for five years to get the go-ahead to build the small craft harbour.

An environmental impact assessment was rejected last year after public protests that the harbour would destroy sea life off Durban, restrict access to the beach and change wind and tidal patterns, making it impossible for some watersports to continue in the area.

There are plans to accommodate the watersport clubs in a new R20-million facility.

However, the cash-strapped clubs would have to raise loans themselves to build a clubhouse.

They believe higher membership fees for a joint club together with increased rates and levies could amount to financial suicide. They do not pay for their facilities at present.

Although some have attempted to reach a compromise with the DPDC and the municipality, the Durban Paddleski Club withdrew from negotiations a year ago.

Vassilaros said the Durban Ski Boat Club, the Durban Undersea Club and the Point Yacht Club and his club contribute an estimated R500 million per annum to the city’s economy, sustaining 4 100 jobs in the process.

If the club agrees to go ahead with the municipality’s plans, there is still confusion over whether non-motorised craft, such as paddleskis and windsurfers, will even be allowed around the proposed small craft harbour. eThekwini municipal manager Mike Sutcliffe was not available for comment.

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