Mpumalanga and the Western Cape are not complying with Threatened and Protected Species (Tops) regulations, said Barbara Creecy, the minister of environment, forestry and fisheries.
This emerged in response to parliamentary questions posed by the IFP’s Narend Singh.
He had asked Creecy whether, “given that certain provinces are allegedly not complying with Tops regulations”, had her department conducted an audit to determine which provinces are noncompliant and why this was the case.
He also wanted to know the details of the progress in standardising all environmental legislation and regulations, including bringing all provinces in line with Tops regulations.
In her reply on 22 February, Creecy said the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency, the conservation management authority responsible for biodiversity conservation, had indicated serious capacity problems that had affected its ability to implement the regulations.
In the Western Cape, she said, CapeNature considered the Tops regulations’ implementation as an “unfunded mandate”, given that additional funds are not allocated to CapeNature for the implementation function.
In 2016, the department conducted an audit of the capacity requirements for provincial conservation authorities to implement the revised Tops regulations, particularly personnel to issue permits and conduct inspections in terms of provincial legislation, Tops and Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species regulations.
“Capacity challenges were considered when the draft revised Tops regulations were finalised, for example, the impact of provisions that could lead to unnecessary regulatory requirements,” she said.
The department had since amended the Tops regulations and lists.
The revised regulations and lists, Creecy said, still ensured the conservation of species were not compromised.
“These will be less onerous in respect of the requirements for permits — for example, except for a few species such as lion, rhino, leopard and elephant, a person will no longer require a permit for dead specimens. Furthermore, the movement of species between registered game farms does not require a permit.”
The amendments were in the parliamentary approval processes, after which they would be published for implementation, she said.
“Mpumalanga and the Western Cape have since, through Ministers and Members of Executive Councils Meeting expressed their willingness to implement the amended Tops regulations when published for implementation.”
Creecy said her department, working with all provinces, had invested a considerable amount of time and effort in addressing conflicting legislation through the sectoral cooperative governance system or intergovernmental processes.
“A project in this regard is ongoing and will intensify once the capacity is enhanced,” she said.
“However, the role of both the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act and the National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act as the principal framework legislation for protected areas, biodiversity conservation cannot be overlooked in this regard.”
Provinces were at different stages of aligning provincial legislation with national biodiversity legislation, she added.