STATEMENT FROM THE COMMITTEE OF THE LEISURE BAY CONSERVANCY
There is an unprecedented level of malevolence on social media, specifically on one Facebook page, towards the Leisure Bay Conservancy. A lot of the talk that Facebook page is about the Conservancy's Dune Project at Drakes Bay. It is said that some residents have concerns regarding this project. It is a pity that these concerned people have not approached the Conservancy directly but choose to be behind computers, laptops and mobile devices, and wage this campaign of misinformation, even going as far as voicing negative opinions regarding the use of donor’s funds.
The Conservancy deliberately held its well-publicised Annual General Meeting in late January 2018 instead of during the holiday season to allow residents the opportunity of attending the AGM, a public meeting, which would have been an ideal opportunity to voice concerns and objections. At said meeting, no concerns nor objections were raised, nor were any questions asked, despite the Dune Project being mentioned in the Chairman’s Report and all relevant documentation pertaining to the project being displayed in a large display for all to see.
It is thus disconcerting that now, three months after the legal Public Participation period for comments and objections to the proposed restoration project closed, to receive news of objections.
It is very important to the Conservancy that residents, homeowners and interested people know the facts about this issue, hence our regular inserts in the LBRA newsletter, the first in October 2015 and the last at the end of January 2018, plus news on Facebook, our WhatsApp group and our website. However, for the sake of clarity, here’s a brief but complete summary of the series of events. Do please contact us by email on email@example.com if you have questions, objections, criticism, comments or anything else to say about this or any other issue, for that matter.
These acronyms will be used:
EIA - Environmental Impact Assessment EAP - Environmental Assessment Practitioner (Green-Scene Environmental)
EDTEA – the KZN Provincial Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs
EDTEA EMI – the Environmental Management Inspection Section of the the KZN Provincial Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs
EM – the Ray Nkonyeni Municipality’s Environmental Manager, Feziwe Mhlongo
EPWP – the Government’s “Extended Public Works Program” LBC – the Leisure Bay Conservancy WftC – Working For The Coast, part of the EPWP
The earliest public reference to the state of the dune was at our AGM in December 2015 when we displayed pics of our “wish list”. The dune at Drakes was on that wish list. We started serious enquiries in May 2017:
On 16 May 2017 we first emailed the EM asking for guidance re the dune.
On 17 May 2017, the EM referred us to the EDTEA.
Later on 17 May 2017, we emailed Melissa Packree of the EDTEA asking for guidance; the next day we submitted our EIA Enquiry Form.
On Friday 9 June 2017, the EM and EDTEA did a site inspection during which we were informed that we cannot proceed with the restoration of the dune until we have authorization from RNM.
10 June 2017: We received a phone call from a homeowner (who wishes to remain anonymous), offering advice and assistance – they have been involved in massive, successful beach reclamation elsewhere on the coast, one of their associates having worked closely with representatives of the United Nations on dune restoration.
12 June 2017: This is an excerpt from an email from us to the EM and the EDTEA on 12 June 2017 after the site inspection on 9 June: “As I understood, a Consultant is to be appointed by RNM in the next year or two (this financial year is almost at an end, and next financial year’s budget has been finalized). This Consultant will make recommendations to RNM, and thereafter the restoration might be authorized. As we discussed, the condition of the dune is deteriorating rapidly due to wind action, die-back of existing vegetation and human interference. We now request permission to barricade the three open sides of the dune so that people and their dogs will no longer be able to walk over the very sensitive degraded area. We plan the barricade (in the form of a fence) as follows: Extent of the degraded section of dune: approx 100m x 20m Material: 130 wooden poles and 130 metres of shade cloth. Height of the shade cloth is 1.5m and the diameter of the poles 10cm. Footprint of the material: Poles: 1.04 square metres Shade cloth: 4 square metres”.
15 June 2017: email from the EM “Please note that permission is granted to barricade the degraded dune, provided that no listed activities in terms of EIA Regulations are triggered (regulations attached). With regards to the appointment of a Consultant, please note that the Municipality currently does not have funds to appoint an independent Environmental Practitioner. We would very much appreciate it if the Conservancy has means to appoint one. Please let me know should this materialise.”
20 June 2017: The EAP does a site inspection, agrees to do the Rehab Plan and Maintenance Management Plan free of charge for us.
20 June 2017: The homeowner donates all the material for the shade cloth barriers, their rehab advisor's time and free labour to erect the shade cloth barriers, including training us in their proper use. We plan to begin with the shade cloth barriers on Monday 26 June 2017.
21 June 2017: Our advisor sees masses of indigenous plant material on the verges in Trafalgar where a contractor is trimming trees along the roads. The result of this is that plant material is offloaded at the Drakes Bay parking area, intended for placement on the dune, beginning on Monday, 26 June 2017. It must be noted that two of the six committee members voiced objections on WhatsApp at the time, because we had not received the necessary permission to proceed, although one of these committee members who objected, refused two requests from me on our Committee WhatsApp Group (on 23 & 24 June 2017) to meet with the advisor and to discuss the issues. The other person who objected was out of town and conseqquently was not able to meet.
26 June 2017: With the help of labourers from Working for the Coast and from the donor, and withn our advisor on site, we start carrying the plant material to the dune, and start packing it onto the bare sand, and begin to construct the shade cloth barriers. This continued through 27 June and for most of 28 June.
26 June 2017: Our activities are reported to the EM by the committee member mentioned above.
28 June 2017: The EM and a representative from the EDTEA do a site inspection and instruct us to cease all brush-packing activities. We are allowed to complete the placement of the shade cloth barriers. At this stage we had used up 99% of the plant material which had been donated to us.
3 July 2017: The EDTEA and the EAP do a site visit.
10 July 2018: The EDTEA EMI do a site visit.
17 July 2017: We receive a “Notice to Issue a Compliance Notice.” dated 14 July 2017 from the EDTEA because we had unlawfully commenced with a listed activity without the required permission.
28 August 2017: Site inspection with the EDTEA. A number of officials who had been to the dune before were very impressed and happy with the effectiveness of the shade cloth barriers and with the amount of sand that had been trapped by the vegetation which we had packed on the bare sand on 26,27 & 28 June, just two months before.
On 15 September 2017, as a result of submissions to the EDTEA by our EAP, in which we had fully acknowledged that we had started with the sand stabilization before receiving permission to do so, upon hearing what our motivation had been and having conducted the above site visit, the Department acknowledged, inter alia, (and I quote) " 4.5 Due to bad status of the sand dune and fear of the irreversible degradation, the Leisure Bay Conservancy took action that placed the environment at the forefront by protecting the sand dune". And furthermore, (and I quote), “ 5. After careful consideration of your motivation and the site inspection findings of 28 August 2017 by the officials of the Department, I have taken a decision not to issue you with a final notice. And 6. You are advised that the Maintenance Management Plan will be forwarded to the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) component of the Department for review and decision.
The current status of this process is that we await the final decision by the EDTEA. Until such time as we get the go-ahead, we are not allowed to do any work on the dune except to maintain and strategically move the shade cloth barriers.
It has been suggested that the Conservancy is wasting our donors’ funds. The reality is that the cost of this process to the Conservancy has been minimal, because:
1. all the shade cloth, the poles and twine was donated by our advisor’s business partner.
2. the advisor assisted us with his expertise for 3 days (excluding the planning stage).
3. labour (6 people for 3 days) was donated by our advisor’s business partner.
4. other labour (10 people for 3 days) was donated by WftC, part of the EPWP.
5. Three local residents donated a substantial amount for use towards the rehab costs.
6. We are growing our own plants, and residents are also assisting / have also assisted with this. One of our current committee members, and long-time member of the Conservancy, has donated his time, all labour, compost, plant bags, water, and other associated costs of the plant growing, to the Conservancy.
7. He will also make some of his plants available for sale at our Open Gardens Weekend on 16+17 June. Some of these funds will go towards the Dune Project.
8. To date we have paid for:
a) the travel cost to Durban for the first meeting with Green-Scene.
b) the advert in the newspaper.
c) our workers about one day a month for the maintenance done on the shade cloth barriers.
Exact figures of the expenditure up to year-end (end June) will be available after our year-end financial report is presented to LBRA.
DOCUMENTATION: All official documentation is available to anyone who would like to receive a copy. If so, please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org
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