Examples of CMAI developments and proposed developments.
Uitzicht (above Belvidere):
Another client listed on the website is Barloworld, in connection with the Uitzicht project, a highly controversial proposed development in the pine plantations above Belvidere.
At the time the development application commenced, the Uitzicht property, which was previously under fynbos, had been afforested with pine trees since the 1970s. The pine trees were in the first rotation. It is widely accepted that the rehabilitation potential of fynbos, after harvesting of first rotation pine trees, was excellent and relatively inexpensive. Yet Dr. Mulder chose to ignore the duty of care provisions in NEMA and attempted to use the presence of the pine trees as justification for the proposed development.
Approximately 400 individuals objected to Uitzicht. In addition, Brenton, Belvidere, Belvidere Estate, Buffels Baai and Knysna Ratepayers organisations also objected to this proposed development.
The way in which public participation was conducted by Dr. Mulder in the Uitzicht matter does not bode well for his handling of the public participation process that forms such an integral part of the ISDF. Some examples are set out below. Dr. Mulder had meetings with various stakeholders in 2004 prior to commencing with the scoping phase of the development. However, stakeholders complained that his style was not consultative, but instead involved Dr. Mulder telling stakeholders what was going to happen in an effort to create an impression of inevitability. The details are briefly set out hereunder.
Dr. Mulder advised stakeholders that from 2007, as soon as the Thesen Islands construction had been completed, the same development2 team and the same building contractors would move to Uitzicht and start building. The impression was created that the EIA and rezoning processes were a necessary hurdle to overcome, but that the outcome was not in doubt. The development would comprise 16 high-density villages in the pine plantation, totalling 600 houses. A 60-room boutique hotel, a petrol station and a commercial complex would be built on the sensitive sand dunes. The pine plantation would be harvested sustainably and replanted. The management of the trees would be financed by the sale of harvested trees. The residents of Belvidere Estate were assured that they would not see the houses as the plantation would hide the houses. The idea was that the plantation formed an integral part of the development concept and would be maintained in perpetuity. There would be a middle-income housing component and people could take the train to town. A desalination plant would be donated to Knysna to provide for the water needs of the development.
Whereas Dr. Mulder advised most stakeholders that the development would cater for middle-income housing in addition to prime stands aimed at an affluent market, he assured the residents of Belvidere Estate that the development would cater for much the same market as Thesen Islands. In reality all properties on Thesen Islands were priced way beyond the means of middle-income earners, and clearly middle-income earners would not be able to afford the houses at Uitzicht either.
The developers of Uitzicht apparently envisaged that middle-income housing could be provided at Rheenendal. Annexure H to the Uitzicht rezoning application provides insight into the middle-income housing component. Duard Barnard, the environmental and resource consultant said:
“The N2 tar road and the upper plateau on which the Rheenendal road is, is to the north of Uitzicht. … The density is not restrictively low. It is probable that this area would lend itself to the development of low- and middle-level housing for people employed in Knysna and on projects such as the proposed Uitzicht development.”
In fact, a middle income housing development in Rheenendal is currently being proposed by CMAI, on behalf of a corporate landowner, PG Bison.
Despite Dr. Mulder’s assurance that the pine trees belonged to his client, Barloworld, and that the plantation was merely being managed by the forestry company, Steinhoff, the latter company gave notice to Barloworld that they were intending to harvest the trees as they were mature. This notice was given just before the open day in 2004. The truth was that the trees had belonged to Steinhoff all along and they had intended to harvest them as soon as they were mature.
This caused much confusion on the open day as Dr. Mulder had a forestry exhibition and his whole development concept was based on villages in the “forest”. Cobus Venter was introduced as the manager of the plantations for Uitzicht. Dr. Mulder requested Steinhoff to delay the harvesting and they agreed to a temporary suspension of their harvesting plans.
When the residents of Belvidere Estate found out that they had been misled by Dr. Mulder, they were furious. After having established that Dr. Mulder had misled them about the pine plantation, residents of Belvidere Estate became some of the strongest opponents of the Uitzicht development, with some becoming leading members of the Western Heads Protection Group (WHPG).
Residents from Brenton, Belvidere, Buffels Baai and Uitzicht formed the WHPG to oppose Uitzicht. The Knysna Ratepayers organisation joined the opposition and contributed to a fund to oppose the development.
Mike Maughan-Brown, the current Director of Planning and Development of the Knysna Municipality was employed by the WHPG to prepare an objection to the Guide plan amendment application as well as comment during the scoping phase of the EIA process. At that stage, Mr. Maughan-Brown was in private practice as a town planner known as CNDV Southern Cape.
In late 2004 the WHPG arranged a meeting in Brenton hall, attended by some 400 residents. The gathering was addressed by Mr. Maughan-Brown and an environmental attorney, Nicholas Smith. The general mood was one of outrage at Dr. Mulder’s plans for Uitzicht. The WHPG was very unhappy with the way Dr. Mulder was conducting the public participation process relating to Uitzicht. He was not interested in the comments or suggestions of its members and made it clear that the development would go ahead as planned. Members of the group asked him to reduce the density and visit the neighbouring properties to see the indigenous fynbos surrounding the development site, but he was not interested. He created the impression that rehabilitating the fynbos would be expensive and pointless as the surrounding land use was plantations, which is not true, as only the southern side borders plantations. He chose to obtain the opinion of a forester, Cobus Venter, on the rehabilitation potential of the fynbos rather than that of a botanist.
In addition, the written application differed from what Dr. Mulder initially told stakeholders in private meetings. Dr. Mulder indicated that water for Uitzicht would be provided by a desalination plant, the developers would build and the train would transport middle-income dwellers to town. However, at the subsequent “open day” for the development, there was no mention of the desalination plant as it was alleged that Knysna had enough water to service the development. There was also no mention of the train.
Previously disadvantaged communities were promised jobs at Uitzicht, yet Dr. Mulder planned to use the same construction teams that were working on Thesen Islands at the time.
Some residents contacted a Barloworld director, Mr. Peter Surgey, whose portfolio included the corporate image of Barloworld, during 2005 to express concerns with the way the process was being conducted by Dr. Mulder. Members of the WHPG had a meeting with Mr. Surgee regarding their complaints and the process continued.
During 2006 or 2007, Susan Campbell, a member of the WHPG and the Western Heads-Goukamma Conservancy (Conservancy), received a phone call from Jennifer Smith from Barlows. Ms. Smith was not known to us or to Ms. Campbell at the time. She advised Ms. Campbell that she had been attending a workshop on Thesen Islands in connection with a Barlows legacy project for Knysna and that she had encountered huge criticism from individuals who were unhappy with Barlows’ plans for Uitzicht. Ms. Smith was unaware of the proposed development and was advised to contact Ms. Campbell for more information. Ms. Campbell had been working on a letter to the CEO of Barlows, to inform him of her concerns in connection with the Uitzicht development. This letter was forwarded it Ms. Smith.
At a later stage we were informed by Ms. Smith that Mr. Peter Surgey had terminated Dr. Mulder’s mandate and that Barlows would investigate turning the property into a nature reserve for Knysna. Ms.Campbell had meetings with Jennifer Smith and Dr. Nick King from the Endangered Wildlife Trust concerning the legacy project, but Barlows have not yet decided what to do with the land.
In the meantime it came to our attention that Dr. Mulder was continuing with the Uitzicht development despite the fact that his mandate had been terminated.
The DA was governing the Knysna council in coalition with the CX Forum and smaller parties. We were advised that Mr. Elrick van Aswegen, the leader of the CX Forum [Ed: he’s now COPE], had visited the DA in Cape Town and asked them to approve Uitzicht. He was advised that the decision would be made at local level.
The guide plan amendment application had been considered by the amenities committee of Knysna municipality and the recommendation was that it would be refused, as Knysna did not have the water , electricity and other services capacity to cater for this development. The matter was on the council agenda in 2007. Both the ANC opposition and the DA did not support the development.
Ms. Campbell attended the council meeting. Upon entering the council chamber, she walked past Mr. van Aswegen and saw that he had a letter from CMAI in his hand. She was unaware of the contents of the letter. As the item came up and voting was about to commence, Mr. Elrick van Aswegen indicated to his councillors that they should adjourn to caucus. Mr. van Aswegen thereupon advised the Mayor, Ms. Wakeford-Brown, that they would withdraw from the coalition unless they approved Uitzicht. The matter was postponed.
Ms. Campbell thereupon contacted Mr. Surgey and advised him what was taking place and he advised her that he would inform the Mayor that Dr. Mulder’s mandate had been terminated. He thereupon sent an email to the Mayor advising her that Barlows had terminated Dr. Mulder’s mandate two months earlier and that they would investigate turning the property into a nature reserve. The letter is annexed as annexure “H”. At the next council meeting, the application was dismissed. Dr. Mulder in a press interview criticised the council decision and denied that his mandate had been terminated.
Clearly, the proponents of the development had not given up. A letter to the local newspaper from “Jason from Hornlee” contained elaborate information and made false allegations about Mr. Surgey. It was alleged that Mr Surgey had a house in Belvidere, below Uitzicht, whereas in truth Mr. Surgey had a holiday home on the other side of town, on Leisure Isle and Uitzicht would have had no impact whatsoever on Mr. Surgey. There were further allegations that Belvidere people were racist and did not want black middle-income people living among them. In truth, Uitzicht was aimed at the same market as Thesen Island, where the properties were too expensive for middle-class purchasers. A local joke refers to Thesen Island as Knysna’s white location.
Mr. Surgey retired from Barlows and the matter was handed to Maurice Pinn. Mr Pinn confirmed that Dr. Mulder was no longer acting for Barlows and indicated that they had not decided what to do with the land.
This is a development involving a proposed “fish farm” near Veldrif on the West Coast. Residential homes on stilts in an estuary have been proposed. The development is highly controversial and has encountered considerable opposition. A more sensitive environment than inside an estuary is hard to imagine. In Dr. Mulder’s own words, he is having a battle with the Western Cape Provincial Government and his plans have not been approved. At the time the development was first proposed it was outside the urban edge.
Crossways is the only one of Dr. Mulder’s so-called agri-villages that has been approved. See the report in the Mail&Guardian annexed hereto as annexure “A”. It is too early to judge whether the concept will succeed in combining a successful dairy farm with residential development. Combining residential development with agriculture is neither new nor unique. The Boschendal wine farm and residential estate and the successful residential development adjacent to the Irene Milk Farm in Gauteng preceded Dr. Mulder’s so called “agri-villages”. In the latter case, the difference is that the milk farm is adjacent to an existing residential area and is continuing to be operated by the same family. A residential component has been added to the farm and both the residential and agricultural components are operating in harmony. By contrast, the Crossways development is on the van Staden’s River Gorge and borders on a nature reserve. Part of the development falls within a sensitive environment. It is not located near an existing residential area. The sustainability of the dairy farm is still in question. The milk farmer from whom the farm was purchased has the option to renew his lease by May 2013 for two years and has not done so yet. One has to question what will happen to the farm workers if the lease is not renewed. At this stage it is too early to know whether the project will succeed, as there is uncertainty about the long term sustainability of the milk farm. It is therefore clear that other than in the Irene example, Crossways may end up as just another gated community with some agricultural activity.
- George Rex Place:
Another highly controversial development, unusually inside the urban edge, but in a wetland. This development is in Knysna and has encountered considerable opposition. Dr. Mulder argues that the wetland has been altered due to dumping of sawdust by the previous owner and that this entitles his client to develop. This argument completely ignores the duty of care in terms of the Water Act and NEMA as well as the fact that the duty of care extends to subsequent landowners. In addition to this, the wetland still functions as a wetland despite the fact that it has been altered.Recent rumours that the development has been approved have caused outrage among some Knysna residents, but the municipality has denied that such approval has been granted.
Dr. Mulder cites this proposed “agri-village” as an example of rural development. It falls outside the urban edge. The property falls between two protected areas and is 15 minutes from Woolworths in Plettenberg Bay . This development has encountered considerable opposition from interested parties and in Dr. Mulder’s own words a battle with the Western Cape Provincial Government. In letter to M&G in response to the Crossways article, annexed hereto as annexure “B”, Jane Rosenthal, a resident of the Crags, dismisses the farm village concept as “a glorified gated estate” and suggests that Dr. Mulder is selling farming as “the new golf”.
- Thesen Islands:
This is a highly controversial development that encountered significant opposition from Knysna residents. Prior to the development of the Island, it was an industrial timber treatment site, owned by Barloworld Ltd (Barlows). Significant pollution and environmental degradation was caused by Creosote and CCA, used in the treatment of timber, seeping into the soil. The significant cost of remedying the pollution was used as justification for the high density of the development. In essence, the land owner was rewarded with significant development rights, due to environmental degradation caused by its own commercial activities.The development rights were approved in 1998, the year of the enactment of the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA).1 NEMA came into operation in 1999 and was not applicable to Thesen Islands, yet the same pattern of historic degradation as justification for development in ecologically sensitive areas, is repeated in many of Dr. Mulder’s proposed developments detailed below.Section 28 of NEMA imposes a duty of care to remedy environmental damage.The development is situated on 19 man-made islands in the Knysna estuary and is a gated community with strict access control. Due to the high density and the light paint colours, including some white roofs, the visual impact of the development is extremely high. The estuary is the jewel of Knysna, and residents and visitors complain that the Thesen Islands Development stands out and spoils the ambiance of the lagoon. During the open day of the George Rex Development, a photograph of Thesen Islands clearly depicted the negative visual impact and the contrast with the dark lagoon. It was pointed out to Dr. Mulder that the impact could easily have been reduced significantly by using darker paint colours. Dr.Mulder agreed with this and indicated that they were now allowing darker paint colours on the Islands, but that some residents were unfortunately painting their roofs white. Soon afterwards, it was established that Dr. Mulder, who lives on the island, was one of the home owners who had a white roof. As every detail, including colour and types of building materials that could be used, was strictly regulated by the development team, it cannot escape blame for the end result. Prior to being developed into a gated housing estate, the island employed more than 1,000 people who worked in the timber treatment facility. Generations of previously disadvantaged fishermen used to fish on the island. After the development of the island, a canal was constructed to provide access to affluent residents’ boats. This canal cuts off fishermen from their fishing spots on the island. To this day they have lost the right to fish from the island, as the only people allowed access to the island are residents, their invitees and domestic workers. Numerous construction jobs were promised by the developers and obviously there was significant employment during the construction phase. Sadly, these jobs were not sustainable and the building industry in Knysna is currently in the doldrums. Only approved building contractors and architects were allowed to work on the island. According to a list of approved contractors obtained from the Thesen Islands Development Company in 2006, only two of the 45 who were allowed to work on the island were from previously disadvantaged population groups. As a result, there was little empowerment of previously disadvantaged persons and they were employed only as labourers during the construction phase. This development illustrates Dr. Mulder’s interest and role in a property development. Dr. Mulder acted as the consultant to the landowner, Barloworld, in obtaining all the necessary development approvals. Once approval had been obtained, Dr. Mulder became a shareholder in the development company. His architectural sister company was involved in the architectural guidelines and was one of the firms that was allowed to design homes. This serves to illustrate why Dr. Mulder, a stakeholder, cannot be tasked with determining land use and development guidelines in Knysna without his interests coming into conflict with the performance of his duties in terms of the ISDF tender. Otherwise, the situation would involve Dr. Mulder, as the developer, submitting proposals regarding the ISDF process to himself as project manager of the ISDF process.
Click here to read:
- Environmental Groups Object 1: ISDF Tender Award & Chris Mulder
- Environmental Groups Object 2: CMAI & Chris Mulder’s Plans
- Environmental Groups Object 3: PG Bison/500 Houses for Rheenendal?
- Environmental Groups Object 4: PG Bison Bullies Environmentalists?
- Environmental Groups Object 5: Mike Maughan-Brown
- Environmental Groups Object 6: Conflicts of Interest
- Environmental Groups Object 7: Conclusion