Metro: Mayors to meet

2008-04-23 00:00

The Msunduzi Municipality's submission to the Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB) is based on three premises.

Firstly that it more than meets the criteria to be called a metro city.

Secondly that it already operates as a de facto metro since it continues to perform all the functions that were supposed to be taken away and managed by the uMgungundlovu District.

Finally, that the level of growth and development in this area has reached a stage where there needs to be integrated planning under one municipality.

Currently it is impossible to efficiently manage the process when two and three different municipalities are involved.

The criteria set out by the MDB are that an area can become a metro if it has a conurbation featuring:

Areas of high population density;

An intense movement of people, goods and services;

Extensive development and multiple business districts and industrial areas;

A centre of economic activity with a complex and d diverse economy;

A single area for which integrated development planning is desirable and;

Strong interdependent social and economic linkages between its constituent units.

In his submission Msunduzi Municipal Manager, Rob Haswell says Msunduzi and surrounding areas more than meets the criteria.

* The area is a conurbation of almost continuous urban development extending from Camperdown in the south through Pietermaritzburg, Hilton, and to beyond Howick in the North. In essence it is a conurbation which straddles the N3. The population density exceeds 200 people per square kilometre.

* There is intense movement of people goods and services, within this area, leading to the South African National Roads Agency already carrying out and intending to carry out major alterations to main intersections and bridges across the N3.

Road traffic per month on the main arterial road into Pietermaritzburg has increased from 950 000 in 2003 to 1 100 000 in 2007.

Similarly the city's shopping centres now attract some 1,8 million shoppers per month with as many as 2,5 million recorded in December 2007.

Haswell says bearing in mind that the population of them Msunduzi Municipal area is only 600 000, Pietermaritzburg is clearly attracting large numbers of people from outside its current boundary.

* Extensive development in the area, including the 500 site residential and office park development at the Victoria Country Club Estate; a 250 site residential Garlington Estate in the uMngeni municipal area; the greater Edendale project and the proposed development of two industrial parks on either side of the Msunduzi/Mkhambathini municipal area boundary.

* The submission includes extensive information from economist Clive Coetzee's quarterly business reports on the growth of the area's economy including the fact that since 2004 when Pietermaritzburg became the capital of KwaZulu-Natal, business confidence and investment has soared with the number of businesses increasing from 6 957 in January 2003 to 9 052 in December 2007.

Msunduzi Municipality already operates as a de facto metro:

According to Haswell, since its inception Msunduzi has continued to perform all of the power and functions designated to the district.

These include running the regional airport with five daily return flights from Pietermaritzburg to Johannesburg; overseeing a regional fresh produce market with an annual turnover in excess of R200 million, managing the regional landfill site and cemeteries as well as a regional stadium.

In addition, the Msunduzi Municipality is a water service authority, and its electricity supply area, already extends beyond its municipal boundary to include the Hilton area which lies in the uMngeni municipality.

The need for integrated development planning:

Haswell writes: The recent rapid economic growth in the area has resulted in considerable strain upon all of Pietermaritzburg's infrastructure.

Clearly there is an overconcentration of people and traffic, with resulting congestion in central Pietermaritzburg.

New airport, landfill and cemetery sites need to be identified and these are likely to be outside of the Msunduzi's current restricted municipal area.

In addition, the city's industrial areas are now virtually sold out, and it is clear that Greater Pietermaritzburg has outgrown the facilities, which are able to be located and developed within the Msunduzi Municipal area alone.

It is vitally important, therefore that the Greater Pietermaritzburg area, is brought under a single administrative and planning authority, such as a metro municipality.

A single coherent economic development strategy is urgently required if the current growth is to yield economic development and transformation.

Numerous and essential ad hoc development proposals are being formulated for land along the N3, and currently falling within the jurisdiction of three municipalities. The province has recognized the need for an integrated approach to the development of the Durban-Pietermaritzburg corridor.

But, this focus on the N3 corridor alone, rather than the compilation of an integrated, and clearly post-apartheid, spatial development framework for the entire Greater Pietermaritzburg area, tends to perpetuate, rather than ameliorate the still glaring spatial, social and economic inequalities which still exist.

The highly urbanized and developed area, the former partly urbanized townships and the semi-rural tribal areas still form a patchwork, which urgently needs to be integrated into a more efficient and equitable metropolitan urban system, and that will be best achieved by the development of a single plan by a single metropolitan municipality.

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