17 Feb 2012

Hout Bay wetland gets a new lease on life

Hout Bay wetland gets a new lease on life

Taken from capetown.gov.za:

Published by Martin Pollack.
Developer commences with restoration of Disa River Wetlands in Hout Bay

The City of Cape Town, in partnership with the Department of Water Affairs (DWA), has received confirmation from the developers of the Hout Bay Beach Club – Really Useful Investments 219 (Pty) Ltd – that they began work in preparation for rehabilitation of the Disa River Wetlands in Hout Bay on Wednesday, 15 February 2012.

This follows legal action taken by the City and the DWA to prevent any further infilling of the wetlands. The City served a Pre-Directive on the developers in April 2011 before serving a Directive in terms of the Environment Conservation Act in May 2011. Concurrently, a Pre-Directive was served by the DWA in terms of the National Water Act, followed by a Directive.

The City and the DWA had significant concerns regarding the impact of the aforementioned activities on the riverine and wetland environment, the quality of the water, and the beach areas adjacent to the Beach Club. In addition to the City’s concerns, a number of complaints were received from Hout Bay residents and a petition was later handed to the City by Kronendal Primary School in Hout Bay.

“We are very pleased that the developers of the Beach Club have initiated work to abide by the conditions set out in the Directive. Working together with the Department of Water Affairs, the City has shown that destruction of our natural resources will not be tolerated. The agreement to rehabilitate the wetland is especially welcomed as we recently celebrated World Wetlands Day,” says the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Economic, Environmental and Spatial Planning, Alderman Belinda Walker.

The process has taken some time to conclude because of the specialist information that the developers needed to obtain (i.e. reports prepared by wetland and hydrological specialists retained by the developers and the City), which then had to be carefully reviewed by the City.

The City of Cape Town’s Directive required that the developers stop infilling immediately, survey the natural flood lines, and appoint a freshwater ecologist to assess the impact of infilling and make detailed recommendations for rehabilitation.

Now that these studies are complete, the developer is required to remove the material that was placed in the floodplain of the river to the satisfaction of the City. An agreement has been drafted between the City and the developers on the extent of fill to be removed, the timing and methods to be used, and the monitoring of the process.

“The developer has until 30 March 2012 to complete the required rehabilitation work and the City will be monitoring this process carefully,” said Alderman Walker.

“This is another good example of co-operative governance between the City of Cape Town and the Department of Water Affairs to protect our natural resources,” said the Chief Director of the Western Cape Department of Water Affairs, Rashid Khan.

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21 Jun 2011

We need help to secure the Wetlands!

We need help to secure the Wetlands!

The Resident’s Association of Hout Bay urgently requires funds to pay legal
costs incurred in our efforts to save the wetland next to the Disa River, the
estuarine and the sea.  We have been successful in getting the City to serve
Directives on the developer and also the Dept of Water Affairs, whom we
have been working closely with through our Attorneys. None of this would
have been possible without legal action. Attached is the latest article by
Environmental Journalist John Yeld (Argus 16 June 2011) in this saga.

The Chairman, himself spent 2 and a 1/2 days in the High Court, 31st March,
1 April 2011, fighting this issue to save the wetlands and to stop the
bulldozers. This action opened up the cracks in the developer’s defense and
led to the determined onslaught and pressure brought to bear against the
developer. All this could not have been achieved without legal opinion and
actions by our Attorneys. We now have to pay them and your contribution
will be invaluable, so please join the force to stop wetlands from being
concretised, now and in the future.

We currently have an account from our Attorneys of R70 000 to pay.  We
urgently appeal to all members who have not yet paid their subs for 2011 to
do so ASAP.  We especially appeal further for any donations that you may
be willing to make.

The RAHB bank details are as follows:
Account name: Hout Bay Residents Association
Bank:                First National Bank
Branch:             Hout Bay
Branch Code:    204 009
Account No:      5345 1027 173

Please use your FULL Name as a reference on the payment – to ensure that
we correctly credit your membership/donation payment – this information will
appear on our Bank Statement.

Any and all amounts received will be welcomed.

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03 Jun 2011

City scientist to look at disputed wetland

City scientist to look at disputed wetland

Taken from IOL.co.za,

One of Cape Town’s most prominent aquatic scientists has been appointed to investigate the contested wetland area affected by controversial infilling of part of the Disa River estuary at Hout Bay, including delineating its boundaries.

Some residents and conservationists have been outraged by the recent in-filling work at the Beach Club residential development, which they claim is illegal. However, the developer – Really Useful Investments (Pty) Ltd – insists the work is fully legal and is being done in terms of a construction phase environmental management plan approved by the province’s environmental authorities.

However, after inspections both the national Water Affairs Department and the City of Cape Town have inclined towards taking the side of the objectors. The department served the developer with a notice in terms of the National Water Act, giving it 48 hours to explain why it should not issue a directive to stop all further in-filling, remove all the fill already dumped and levelled, and rehabilitate the site to its natural state.

Although the department was not satisfied with the response, after a discussion with the developer’s legal team it gave it a further 14 days to produce a copy of the management plan, as well as a wetland specialist’s report which included a delineation of the wetland, and a diagram by a professional engineer showing the 1:50-year flood line.

“Blue Scorpion” Thando Stimela, who is a compliance, monitoring and enforcement official at the department’s regional head office in Bellville, said yesterday that the developer had informed them it had appointed a prominent specialist consultant to investigate, and had asked for an extension to the 14-day period.

This had been granted until next Friday, “because we want to apply fair procedure”, Stimela said.

The Cape Argus has learnt that the wetland specialist is highly experienced consultant Dr Bill Harding, a past chairman of the Southern African Institute of Ecologists and Environmental Scientists, whose CV includes the position of senior hydrobiologist for the City of Cape Town and senior microbiologist for the Cape Town Metropole for nine years.

The city has also got tough with the Beach Club developer, confirming that it has served it with a section 31A directive of compliance in terms of the Environmental Conservation Act.

Spokeswoman Kylie Hatton said this was because it had failed to comply with an earlier notice issued in terms of the city’s stormwater by-law.

The developer’s attorney had responded to a “pre-directive” – an opportunity to explain why it should not be issued with a directive – but the city had been of the opinion “that the in-filling has resulted or may result in the environment being seriously damaged, endangered or detrimentally affected, and therefore did not accept the representations of the developer”, Hatton said, adding that it had served the section 31A directive on May 11, ordering in-filling to cease and rehabilitation measures to be undertaken within 28 days..

The developer has been asked to comment.

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11 Apr 2011

‘Dicey’ Hout Bay property development irks conservationists

‘Dicey’ Hout Bay property development irks conservationists

Taken from iol.co.za/

A change of heart by the provincial authorities has resulted in a developer being allowed to fill in part of the wetland of the Disa River estuary in Hout Bay, without a comprehensive environmental impact assessment or any public participation process.

But the developer has denied that the land in question – part of the Beach Club development on the coastal dunes adjoining Hout Bay beach – is a wetland.

He says the area being filled in lies above the 1-in-50-year floodline as shown on a city map that is part of the 1994 approval of this controversial development.

However, Hout Bay environmentalists say the type of vegetation on the site, and standing water there – despite the very dry summer, make it indisputably a wetland.

They want the city to explain how the floodline was determined.

The province’s decision and the developer’s subsequent earthmoving activities so angered the Hout Bay & Llandudno Environment Conservation Group that it attempted to obtain an urgent High Court interdict last week to stop the bulldozing.

But it was a highly unusual David and Goliath legal effort.

The group represented itself in court and was up against one of the acknowledged environmental experts at the Cape Bar, advocate Andrew Breitenbach SC. They were unsuccessful, although they did not have costs awarded against them.

On Friday last week, Acting Judge Murray van Heerden rejected its application for an order preventing the Beach Club developer from continuing with any in-filling of the wetland, pending authorisation in terms of national environmental legislation.

Instead, he issued an order by agreement that the developer would not push sand or any other material on to the city-owned portion of the wetland, or on to any part of its Beach Club property shown on the 1994-approved development plan as being below the 50-year flood level.

The respondents were Donald Hemphill and development owner Really Useful Investments 219 (Pty) Ltd, of which Hemphill is a director and shareholder, as well as provincial environment and planning MEC Anton Bredell, who did not oppose the application.

In his founding affidavit, conservation group executive committee member Len Swimmer explained that the provincial Environmental Affairs and Development Planning department had decided, in October 2009, that a full environmental impact assessment would be required for further development of the Beach Club in the wetland area.

However, the department head reversed that decision in February after informal representations by the developer’s attorney.

“The respondents are proceeding with the in-filling of the wetland area with sand and other such-like material. The in-filling is currently in process and has given rise to expressions of outrage and complaint… from various members of the Hout Bay community.”

But in his answering affidavit, Hemphill said no part of the wetland was on the development’s property. It was all city-owned. Also, no work was being done within 100m of the high-water mark.

Before the in-filling had started, a construction phase environmental management plan was prepared and approved by the province.

The conservation group’s application was defective “on a number of grounds” – including that Swimmer was not an attorney admitted to appear before court – and that it was “an abuse of process which ought not to tolerated”, Hemphill said.

“I deny not only that the applicant has any right to the interdict it is seeking, but also that the environment will suffer irreparable harm if the work is to continue. The development is being undertaken lawfully and in an environmentally-responsible manner.”

The province and the city have been asked to comment.

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06 Sep 2010

The Wetland Meander


I went on a wonderful walk this Sunday, through the wetlands starting from the Happy Valley estate. It was wonderful to see how local residents, through hard work, were rehabilitating the fragile wetland. Below is a GPS track of the meander.

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