The delay in establishing the Pondoland National Park in the Eastern Cape is due to opposition from the government in that province, Environment Minister Valli Moosa said on Thursday.
”The Eastern Cape provincial government is opposed to the establishment of a national park on the Wild Coast,” he said in a written reply to a parliamentary question by Democratic Alliance MP Errol Moorcroft.
However, a spokesperson for Eastern Cape environment MEC Enoch Godongwane earlier this week said the province was ”not against the park per se”, and wanted to be fully involved in it.
”It’s a question of being consulted, and involved in all aspects of the process,” spokesperson Zama Mpondwana said.
This had not happened, and the initiative to establish the park had been ”parachuted” into the province from national level, he said.
On Wednesday, a national Environment Affairs official suggested the park might be proclaimed before the end of this year.
The department’s senior manager for protected areas, Dirk van Schalkwyk, said a draft action plan for the park had been completed.
”We are still in discussion with the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry over the transfer of state forest, and are currently producing the final document around proclamation of the marine protected area.
”There is still some land that needs to be surveyed… but we would like to see it (the park) this year,” he said.
The announcement that a new national park would be established on the Wild Coast was first made by Moosa in June 2000, and later endorsed by President Thabo Mbeki in his 2001 state-of-the-nation address.
However, there are growing fears that plans by an Australian company to mine titanium from the area’s coastal dunes may jeopardise its proclamation. The company — Perth-based Mineral Commodities Ltd, which is currently prospecting in the area — will need approval from government before any mining can take place.
Contacted for comment, Minerals and Energy spokesperson Kanyo Gqulu said a meeting had been held with Environment Affairs officials ”in which we made an assessment to determine whether mining (of the dunes) would make an impact on the environment”.
Asked what conclusion the meeting had come to, he said: ”I cannot make those public.”
Further asked if his department supported mining in the area, he said it was ”not in favour, and not against”.
Another threat to the proposed park is a plan to build a new national toll road through the middle of it.
Moorcroft, together with DA colleague Wilhelm le Roux, visited the area on Monday to assess the situation on the ground. On their return, they said building a new road in the area made little financial sense because an existing route could be upgraded for just over R400-million. In contrast, the proposed new route, through the middle of the park, would probably cost billions.
”Taking the N2 through this area means they will have to build bridges across a total of five gorges; two of these will need suspension bridges.
”According to figures given to us, the cost of building just these two massive bridges will be R1.5-billion.”
The road and mining threats have incensed Moorcroft, who said it was ”mind-boggling anyone would want to move into the area with bulldozers”.
”If they do, it’s going to be an act of environmental vandalism for which future generations will never forgive us,” he said.
The park, once established, will stretch from Port St Johns in the south to Mtamvuma, near Port Edward on the KwaZulu-Natal coast.
It will cover 106 000 hectares, with an additional 100 000 hectare marine sanctuary. – Sapa