The ISDF tender topic has been a heated affair but has dwindled from regular conversation whilst we wait for the authorities to make decisions (justice is slow…but it is moving). However, it resurfaced with a comment by someone calling his or her self Curious.
I’ve labelled it as an “attack” as it was done anonymously. I can’t recall anyone who wasn’t anonymous (or an acquaintance of a person I’ve criticized) ever making a valid counter-argument on any topic on this website. Knysna expresses a lack of bravery to stand by one’s opinion. And, as per usual, the actual topic isn’t addressed.
BUT I take comments such as this one by Curious seriously. After all, there are often several agendas underfoot in Knysna. Encountering or stumbling over fiefdoms, greediness and prejudice doesn’t surprise for it is the norm.
Curious was more accusatory than curious. In it, he or she was essentially labelling Susan Campbell, the environmentalist whose excellent research has given us, the public, much food for thought, as a hypocrite which would underscore her motive of protecting the environment and Knysna.
Curious has not been the only critic but is the first to aim at an individual (excluding me whose always under attack) rather than a group.
Municipal Manager, Lauren Waring, basically implied that the opposition to the tender was damaging Knysna by not allowing it to go ahead. A member of the local ANC, whose anonymity I protect because I know who he is (a big difference), summed up the environmentalists as rich, white folk practising apartheid. He couldn’t back himself up. I pointed out that previous attempts at increasing the urban edge had involved BEE deals with groups that had included local coloured politicians i.e. were some non-white folks likely to make cash by giving their support to the developers?
But back to Curious who seems to know an awful lot about Susan Campbell. Far too much to be a simple bystander. I, of course, forwarded the comment to Susan Campbell for a response. I said that brief point form would be sufficient but she sent back such a detailed response that it deserved its own blog. I leave it up to you to decide who’s in the right.
COMMENT BY CURIOUS
Dear Wicked Mike,
Your blog regarding the issue of PG Bison planting trees on Uitzicht refers.
Your blog mentions a Ms. Campbell gallantly fighting against the destruction of fynbos on the site.
I’m curious Mike – is it the same Ms Campbell who owns property halfway between Brenton and Buffalo Bay? Is it the same Ms Campbell who built a road across her property to the beach and in the process destroy many a fynbos plant she now so vigorously defend? Is it also the same Ms Campbell who built a holiday resort a mere 65 meters from the high tide mark in a stand of the pristine indigenous coastal forest? And is it the same Ms Campbell who allows the resort’s sewerage and wastewater to pollute the pristine surrounding forest?
Mike, can you perhaps investigate how on earth Ms Campbell was allowed to build the holiday resort only 65 meters from the sea. How did she bypass the Integrated Coastal Management Act prohibiting development within 100 meters from the coast? Dare I say that she bullied the conservation authorities into bending the rules?
If Ms Campbell is a true champion for conservation I would suggest that she remove the road and holiday resort from her property to allow the very endangered fynbos back on her land. After all, isn’t that what she expects PG Bison to do?
SUSAN CAMPBELL RESPONDS
I would like to thank Curious for taking an interest in the environment and would be happy to respond to the allegations and/or questions.
My family owns a 80-hectare property between Buffels and Brenton. This property was purchased by my father in the early 1970s from a couple who were farmers. The farming activities included cattle, vegetables and pine plantations. As the land was not suitable for farming, they sold and moved to Plett.
There were numerous roads on the property, including a road that ended in the pristine coastal thicket. A large portion of the thicket had been cleared by previous owners to establish a turning circle. In addition to this, there was a farm shed and a garage with staff quarters as well as a pre-fabricated two-bedroom cottage on other parts of the property. The cottage no longer exists.
Toward the end of the previous century, we consulted with local builders as we wanted to build a holiday home near the coast. Peet Joubert visited the site in 1996/7on behalf of SANPARKS and a suitable site was determined close to the thicket. During 2000 we contracted a George contractor to add gravel to the existing sandy road. He deviated from the existing road in two places to avoid a tree and to shorten the road.( The same road has since been resurfaced with bricks to prevent erosion.)
At the time we were unaware of the fact that the Outeniqua Sensitive Coastal Areas Act Extention had been gazetted in terms of the Environmental Conservation Act in 1998. In terms of this we needed an OSCAE permit to change the road. The matter was reported to the Department of Environmental Affairs and to Cape Nature by residents of Buffels Bay.
This resulted in us having to employ an environmental consultant to apply for the OSCAE permit.
Cape Nature suggested that we built the holiday home in the form of a bush camp. We, therefore, decided to use the existing clearing in the thicket for the kitchen, living area and storeroom and located the bedroom tents in areas where no vegetation had to be removed or disturbed. The clearing consisted of sand as no vegetation had grown back in all the years. All structures were placed on wooden decks in such a way that the ground remained undisturbed, except for the holes for the wooden poles.
We submitted the necessary engineering drawings for the decks and plans were approved by the South Cape District Council and the necessary OSCAE permit was obtained in 2001. At the time I resided in Johannesburg and the construction was completed during school holidays. In 2003 I moved to Knysna to complete the project.
At the time we were required to submit proof from a surveyor that the construction was more than 30 metres from the high water mark.
The bush camp is not a resort, but a tented holiday home. This was not my initial plan, but we decided to follow the advice given to us by Cape Nature. To further protect the thicket we built wooden boardwalks.
In 2003, a significant portion of the property was under pine. At significant cost, we had the pine harvested to rehabilitate the fynbos. In some areas, the pine was replaced by black wattle and blackwood. Other parts of the property were infested with rooikrans. Until 2010 we spent a fortune clearing invasive vegetation. In 2010, Working for Water assisted by doing another clearing and two follow-ups.
The property has now been cleared and we are employing two people to keep the property free from invasive vegetation.
The sewage and wastewater are treated in exactly the same way as is the case in Buffels, Old Belvidere and Brenton. We have two septic tanks and soakaways. Considering that the camp is occupied on average 60 days a year the tanks are doing just fine. The surrounding thicket is flourishing, as unlike fynbos, the thicket is not harmed by the nutrients in the water. Some of the shrubs have grown by more than 2 metres since 2003.
The bushcamp was completed long before the Integrated Coastal Management Act was enacted in 2008 and before the new listed activities in terms of NEMA were gazetted. OSCAE permits and planning approval was obtained.
We have been in contact with Cape Nature as we are interested in having the property declared a private nature reserve in terms of the Protected Areas Act.
The consultant who prepared the Draft Western Heads Structure plan advised me that our “touch the earth lightly” philosophy should serve as a precedent for the area. Representatives from SANPARKS, Environmental Affairs and Cape Nature have seen the camp and have been very satisfied with the result.
We have rehabilitated the old road where the contractor deviated. The entire property has been rehabilitated.
PG Bison were destroying fynbos in an area listed as critically endangered in terms of the Biodiversity Act. In fact, the vegetation, Knysna Sand Fynbos, is the second most endangered vegetation type in the country. They needed environmental authorisation in terms of the 2010 listed activities before they could lawfully clear the vegetation. I advised them of this and urged them to stop, but they refused. They were reported to the Scorpions as a last resort. The Green Scorpions have visited the site twice and I expect that they will take action against them. Hopefully, PG Bison will have second thoughts and realise that they ought not to destroy our irreplaceable fynbos heritage. Just as in the case of private landowners, corporate landowners have environmental responsibilities.
In my case, I was very angry when we were reported to Environmental Affairs. Although I did not like it, it forced me to become more educated about environmental laws and to change my attitude to the environment and to property ownership. Our family now realises that we are custodians of the land for future generations and that we cannot do as we please, as we have been entrusted to look after a very sensitive part of nature.
We were founding members of the Western Heads-Goukamma Conservancy, together with the residents of Buffels, who reported us. Today were are grateful to them, as their actions have served to educate us, thereby preventing us from causing future environmental harm due to ignorance.
Wicked Mike: We all have beginnings. My protest began because Knysna Tourism would not, and still has not, provided a list of who got tourism’s monies. If it wasn’t for the Knysna Tourism Board, Shaun van Eck and the Knysna Municipality, it’s unlikely that Knysna Keep would still exist – I got educated which has, for now, altered my desire for a simple life in Knysna.