Bridge – Not Good Enough (Again)

Sand River Bridge – St Francis definitely deserved better.

Garth Perry (again) draws our attention to the shoddy work on the Sand River Bridge.

“I was extremely pleased when the ‘Contractors’ engaged to construct the Sand River bridge finally opened the bridge to traffic after the years of construction activity and inconvenience to the travelling public of St Francis.

However, it appears we are not done with them yet. Driving over the bridge today, it was apparent that the (extremely thin) asphalt and the base course underneath has failed and potholes are now appearing. These are in areas which have already been patched. The mind boggles as to why this should now be happening after all the construction, ripping it up, doing it again, ripping it up and doing it again that they did. Why could EMPA as contractors and BVI as consulting engineers together with the Provincial road department not get their quality control up to scratch. The road is again going to have to be fixed at additional inconvenience to the travelling public of St Francis.”

“ST FRANCIS DEFINITELY DESERVED BETTER.”

news@stfrancistoday.com

Two Protected Areas declared in Kouga

Greater Kromme Stewardship (GKS) Declares First Two Protected Areas In Eastern Cape

The Kromensee Nature Reserve and The Sand River Private Nature Reserve were officially opened yesterday at an event held at St Francis Links in the Eastern Cape.

Wind farms in the Eastern Cape have become excellent sources of renewable energy with over 15 such operations having been erected in the province over the last five years. According to consulting firm Frost & Sullivan in its report, titled ‘The renewable energy services market and its potential in South Africa, renewable energy is expected to account for 20% nameplate capacity in South Africa’s total power generation capacity by 2030.

But while these working wind farms play their part in the growth of South Africa’s renewable energy resources, they could also cause a threat to local conservation, particularly where the bird and bat populations are concerned.

Because of this, an initiative called the Greater Kromme Stewardship (GKS) has been started near St. Francis Bay in the Eastern Cape by two groups of environmentally-minded people:

  • The Kromme Enviro-Trust, St Francis, is an environmentalist organisation started by a group of volunteers as far back as 1981. Its supporters have a deep interest in the welfare of the animals and plants that make this area their home.
  • The Wind Energy Collective is a group of like-minded wind farm developers. These developers are not just green energy producers; they are committed to environmental responsibility.   Wind Energy Collective includes:

Together, these groups formed the Greater Kromme Stewardship, a pioneering conservation project that will endeavour to make sure that the new wind farms have a positive impact on the local environment.

These partners are using an approach called Biodiversity Stewardship – an exciting new process that can declare nature reserves on private land and help ordinary people become responsible stewards of the natural spaces that they own

Conservation Outcomes, experts in Biodiversity Stewardship, have been brought in to manage the project, including the appointment of a full time stewardship facilitator and an intern to operate in the area. The project also has the full support of the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency. 

As proponents of ‘green’ power, the Greater Kromme Stewardship is committed to conservation, not just of the bird and bat life by creating a safe refuge for them, but of all threatened biodiversity in the district.

Maggie Langlands from Kromme Enviro-Trust says, “We didn’t know we were doing something extraordinary when we came together on this project.    An independent assessor tells us that this initiative has secured more priority land for conservation in the Kouga region than any other initiative in the last fifty years.”

The first two protected areas, namely the Kromensee Nature Reserve and The Sand River Private Nature Reserve, were officially opened today at an event held at St Francis Links Golf Estate and attended by local media, GKS members, the public sector, government, local landowners and farmers, conservationists and various other stakeholders.

Speaking at this morning’s event, Conservation Outcomes’ Kevin McCann says “These are only the first two of ten sites in line for declaration as protected areas, and after that there are a number of other sites we are actively assessing for protection.   This is an area with exceptional biodiversity and unique species – this initiative by the wind farms is doing remarkable things for conservation in the landscape.”

More about the first two protected areas:

The Kromensee Nature Reserve is a very diverse area that includes sensitive ecological features such as a network of primary coastal sand dunes, a perennial dune stream, and a pristine coastline that extends all the way from Paradise Beach to the Kromme river estuary.  The Kromensee Nature Reserve contains a fynbos-thicket mosaic, known as St Francis Strandveld, which is a critically endangered vegetation type which is unique to the coastal areas around St Francis Bay and Cape St Francis.  The Kromensee Nature Reserve is also home to a number of endangered and rare plant species that are known to be endemic to the area (meaning that they only occur in the particular area).  Besides being a beautiful coastal reserve, the Kromensee Nature Reserve also plays an important ecological role by helping to regulate coastal processes that are essential for maintaining beaches in the region.

The Sand River Private Nature Reserve contains part of the dynamic Sand River system, as well as one of the finest examples of a Headland Bypass Dune-field.  Together, these ecological features create a unique combination of mobile sand dunes, wetland systems and dune streams and pools which creates a diverse range of terrestrial and aquatic habitats.  The Sand River Private Nature Reserve also contains endangered and critically endangered vegetation types that form a natural fynbos-thicket mosaic.  As a result, the Sand River Private Nature Reserve sustains an extraordinary diversity of threatened species, many of which are unique to the Sand River system and its surrounding areas.  Extremely rare species have also been recorded on the Sand River Private Nature Reserve, like the Salt Marsh Gecko (Cryptactites peringueyi) which is only found around the Kromme river area.  Furthermore, the dune-fields found on the Sand River Private Nature Reserve also contain a number of ancient Khoisan middens and artefacts that are of great archaeological value.

Sand River Private Nature Reserve

In summary, the aims of The Greater Kromme Stewardship initiative going forward are:

  • Knowledge – Improve people’s understanding of why it is important to conserve biodiversity.

  • Protection – Create new protected areas, through Biodiversity Stewardship, that will conserve natural habitats.

  • Land management – Properly manage the land to keep it functioning in a healthy way.

  • Funding – Access new sources of funding for land management.

  • Sustainability – Reduce poverty by supporting entrepreneurs in sustainable green businesses.

  • Birds – Develop projects to help protect bird species that are threatened. 

For more information go to www.gksinitiative.co.za

Photographs: Sacha Park Photography

Press Release 

Issued on behalf of The Greater Kromme Stewardship initiative by: Leigh Callipolitis at The PR Space – leigh@theprspace.co.za

 

Spit Breaches

Action needed – NOW!

It was bound to happen sooner or later but later would have given more time for DEDEAT to approve urgent shoring up of the Spit. Yesterday’s high tide caused the spit to breach, thankfully closer to the river mouth and not further in which could have been catastrophic.

One would  hope that DEDEAT now gives urgently needed approval for the placement of sand bags in identified critical areas. They, DEDEAT, have delayed the process long enough so it is time that the municipality force their hand and allow work to commence before the upcoming Equinox spring tides arrive next month when a breach could prove disastrous.

Having given the go ahead to start creating a barrier with sand bags some months back DEDEAT suddenly reversed their approval and thus the bags that had been purchased for the purpose were left to gather dust  whilst DEDEAT continue to ponder a decision. DEDEAT is a needed organisation and do a lot of good in protecting the environment but they need to act when things reach a crtitical stage as has the spit.

SFT only received the report of breach last evening so we will follow up with SFPO chairman Wayne Furphy this morning and keep readers abreast of situation

NSRI & SANCCOB Save Entangled Seal

National Sea RescueNSRI and SANCCOB join forces to rescue entangled  seal

St Francis Bay duty crew were activated yesterday (Monday 13 August) afternoon following reports from SANNCOB (SA Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds) who were on the scene at Shark Point after members of the public called in for a seal entangled in fishing gut, sitting on rocks.

Efforts to assist the same seal, believed to be a Cape Fur Seal were unsuccessful on Sunday
after the seal was spotted at the Port sitting on rock. An NSRI St Francis Bay crew went to help SANNCOB members and Bayworld research members on the scene but attempts to capture the seal to free it from entanglement in fishing gut were unsuccessful after the seal was too quick and slippery and managed to escape efforts at attempts to capture the seal.

The seal did not surface after diving under water and the worst was feared but we asked members of the public who live in the area and NSRI crew who live in the area to keep a look-out for the seal.

Yesterday the NSRI duty crew again responded to join SANCCOB members on the scene at Shark Rock. SANNCOB volunteers using a specialised net that Bayworld had loaned them for the operation, were able to capture the seal and cut thick fishing gut that entangled the seal. Once free of the fishing gut the seal was released and is expected to survive the ordeal.

The concerned members of the public who called to report the incident are commended for their efforts but again the call goes out for fisherman to do all they can to recover fishing line..

Former chairman calls for SRA dialogue

Following a meeting of ‘St Francis Bay Concerned Residents’ held on Thursday addressed by an attorney from Graaff Reinet, and an advocate from Port Elizabeth regarding the SRA, St Francis Today has received the following letter from a former chairman of St Francis Bay Residents Association and Kromme River Trust. SFT has long been suggesting dialogue between those for and those against  to find common ground but rather than positive input there has really only been criticism of SFPO efforts to improve security. the roads, beach and spit rather than any constructive input. Maybe this letter from Hilton Thorpe, below, will encourage this much needed dialogue to not only find common ground that has been so elusive but also correct the facts of the SRA and dispel rumours of excessive spending by SFPO on office space and staff salaries which simply is not true but seems to have incensed some.

The only winners if this matter goes to court will be the legal fraternity for no matter the final outcome, it is this St Francis Bay community who will have to pay the legal bill one way or the other.

“Dear Collo,

Yesterday Julia & I attended a meeting of the above Association, which has been set up specifically to oppose the SRA plans of the St Francis Bay Property Owners Association. It was a well-attended, and well-organised meeting, addressed by an attorney from Graff Reinet, and an advocate from Port Elizabeth. The retired population of St Francis Bay was well-represented there, with the affordability of a 25% increase in rates on top of normal annual increases high on the list of concerns.

It quickly became apparent that the St Francis Bay community is caught between a rock & a hard  place. The Chairman of the Concerned Residents made it clear from the outset that they are not opposed in principle to a Special Rate to address the major problems confronting St Francis Bay, but they could not agree to the cost being met by one section of the community.  This being the case, they were preparing to take the matter to the High Court, and had already prepared preliminary documentation. There is no doubt that the objectors’ concerns are real, and we share them.

The lawyers came up with a list of legal technicalities which, in their view, amounted to failure to observe due process, and could be challenged in court. However, litigation is extremely expensive, slow and would achieve nothing towards solving the current impasse. This should be a last resort. It would surely be far preferable if the opposing parties were to sit down, debate the issues raised, and try to find some consensus on a way forward.        

The problem is really caused by the inability of the authorities to solve the problems here, and the legislation with regard to Special Rating, neither of which is the fault of the SFBPOA. They have spent two years, and expended large amounts of time and cash seeking a solution, and have been driven to their present position by the lack of government capacity and by very demanding legislation.

No special rate can be imposed by the Municipality without the approval of 50% + 1 of ratepayers. In the case of Santareme and St Francis-on-Sea, there is a large number of undeveloped stands, and, despite huge efforts by the SBPOA, it has not been possible to identify or communicate with many owners. Incorporation of these suburbs would mean that the 50% +1 target is unattainable, and no action of any sort can be taken. It was not clear that sufficient thought had been given to this by the objectors. Their demand for full participation by the whole community will simply lead to stalemate.

In our view, we should be very grateful to the committed group of able people who have bent over backwards to accommodate all the conflicting currents in this complex situation. It was very sad to us to see such a deep division between two groups, both of whom have the interests of the village at heart, but who seem to have little common ground on how to go about securing this.

A solution to all this is critical to the future of St Francis Bay. Failure to move forward would be a tragedy for the village. Let us hope that common sense will prevail, and that a spirit of co-operation and compromise on the part of both sides will replace the litigious mind-set displayed at yesterday’s meeting”.

Hilton Thorpe
Former Chairman of the St Francis Bay Residents Association and of the St Francis Kromme Trust

Could an Abalone Farm save the beach?

Two of the SA’s largest illegal exports to the East are poached rhino horn and poached abalone

Ahead of the recent BRICKS summit President Cyril Ramaphosa hosted his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to an official state visit at the Union Buildingd. During talks Ramaphosa was able to secure a R33bn loan to pull Eskom out of the dwang and another R4bn to fund Transnet’s bad behaviour. One has to wonder how these loans are any different from what Britain has been doing for the past hundred years and that is now denounced as colonialism.

Ramaphosa was at pains to explain that the Eskom and Transnet agreements were loans and thus, one would imagine, must be repaid to China over some agreed term. So if Eskom and/or Transnet don’t manage to repay the loans in terms of the agreement does this mean that China can repossess these state entities? Seems a rather slanted new colonisation process. Maybe our children and grandchildren would best start learning Mandarin.

But we digress for President Xi also committed R14.7-billion to investment in infrastructure and the economy with emphasis on Ocean and Green Economies. Consider that two of the SA’s largest illegal exports to the East are poached rhino horn and poached abalone. Now there is little that can be done to satiate the east’s predilection for rhino horn as breeding rhino quickly enough presents a challenge considering how many rhino are being brutally slaughtered each month.

But Abalone /  Perlemoen (from the Dutch paarlemoer  – mother of pearl) is a totally different can of worms or rather molluscs, for abalone can be farmed and if farmed in sufficient quantities, could bring an end to a 1-billion rand Abalone poaching industry that has almost wiped out natural abalone beds along the South African coastline.

A couple of years ago at the height of the conversation on how to save St Francis beach, local architect Trevor Tennant showed SFT a concept that could possibly offer a self-sustaining solution to restoring the eroding sand by combining it to an abalone farm. For whatever reasons the concept was not investigated and so returned to a bottom drawer to gather dust in Trevor’s desk.

Motivated by Ramaphosa announcement of China’s willingness to invest and particularly the mention of ‘Ocean Economy’  Trevor opened the drawer , dusted off the file and met with SFT over coffee at Pedal and Spoke a week or so ago. Trevor’s concept may be worth  considering for it could offer two solutions in one.

Brand SA reported last year that a new research study was being conducted by a team from the universities of Fort Hare and Rhodes, as well as Nelson Mandela University and commercial fisheries, in the hope finding ways to restock natural populations and produce abalone for the export market. The research was being headed by Professor Peter Britz of Rhodes, former head of the International Abalone Association. How far this research has progressed is uncertain but maybe this team should be invited to do some preliminary investigations to see if the concept is indeed feasible.

If workable the next step would be to find an investor willing to set up farm and if China is so willing to invest in our Ocean Economy there is no reason why our local government should not make noises in the right influencer’s ears to attract a Chinese developer.

SFT is not saying Trevor’s concept is financially or ecologically viable or that it will solve all the woes of beach erosion but it makes for interesting reading and surely must at least be investigated, if not as a way of replenishing the sand on St Francis Bay beach, then as a way of adding to our region’s existing ocean economy activities and lessening poaching activity.

Click to view Trevor’s Concept

And no! Abalone farming will not attract sharks.

Useful reading

Abalone aquaculture could end poaching