The Kromme Enviro-Trust’s slogan is “Preserve. Protect. Promote.” And that is our focus: to preserve what is valuable in our environment; to protect what is vulnerable; and to promote knowledge and awareness of environmental concerns. Our focus doesn’t change, but how we go about it changes from time to time.
2016 was a year of change. The previous chairman, Hilton Thorpe, stood down at the AGM in December 2015 and there were no volunteers for the position of chairman: in addition, several committee positions fell vacant owing to ill health and resignations. A sad loss was the death of Godfried Potgieter in May. The Kromme Enviro-Trust was fortunate enough to have his expertise and wisdom for twenty years and we miss his great fund of knowledge and his untiring support of all Kromme Trust activities.
One result of these losses was that committee numbers no longer conformed to the requirements of the constitution. A special general meeting was called at the beginning of March 2016 and at that meeting it was resolved that the constitution be amended to allow the association to continue operating with fewer committee members. At that same meeting it was proposed and accepted that a small core committee be formed to manage the essential business of the association while recruiting new committee members to take the association forward into the future. We can now report on the ensuing ten months.
The core committee comprised five members: Maggie Langlands, Peter de Wet, Bev Howard, Geanné Darke and Theonie Kirton. New committee members were enrolled at the beginning of April 2016, namely Warren Manser, John Hay, Ken McGregor and Greg Miller. Emlyn Horne kindly accepted the position of public officer until Andrew Barton joined the committee in September 2016 and took on that responsibility as well as oversight of the financial portfolio. On behalf of the membership I want to express my gratitude and admiration for the hard work and commitment of each of these committee members, many of whom also have jobs and family commitments. You are a rare breed and I salute you.
NAME AND LOGO
Along with the new committee we have also adopted a new name and logo. This is not just in the interests of a more contemporary image, although that was an important consideration. The name ‘St Francis Kromme Trust’ has caused much confusion over the years, since we are a voluntary association and not a trust. There are three different legal structures for non-profit organisations in South Africa: voluntary associations, trusts and Section 21 companies.So we needed to address that issue, but there was also the factor of a thirty-five year history to take into account. Like any company or brand that changes its name, a radical change discards all the goodwill built up over its years of existence. So we looked for a name that retained a strong link to the Kromme Trust’s past but overcame the legal structure question, and settled on Kromme Enviro-Trust (St Francis). We are proud to be entrusted with environmental responsibility in the area, as represented by the words ‘Enviro-Trust’. While we are involved with a much wider range of issues than those associated with the Kromme River, the word ‘Kromme’ has the most historic weight as part of our name. We are also gratified to be associated with the Greater Kromme Stewardship, which was so named because of the Kromme Trust’s involvement: we will be discussing this project in greater detail later.
The logo is now clean, contemporary and cool, using green and blue to convey the dominant colours in our coastal environment. The flowing lines represent the waves, the coastline and the river. We have a new name and a new look: what remains is to ratify the name with a constitutional update and we will be tabling that resolution at this meeting.
New committee members bring new environmental interests to the agenda, and a number of new projects are the result. We are looking into an estuary management plan for the Kromme River, a waste recycling business, an upgrade of the Granny’s Pool area and a pop-up coffee shop in the Heritage Centre. Starting with the last of these,
Pop-Up Shop: as a fund-raising initiative, we applied for an events licence for the Christmas season and it was approved. There was insufficient time to set up the coffee shop we had envisaged, but serendipity led Lex Gutsche to the Viking Bakery and from there to the Kromme Enviro-Trust, who had been discussing the coffee shop option with Cindy. The result was the Tidal Tuckshop, a kiosk selling ice creams and cold drinks from 13th December to 7th January. First Choice proved to be a dream partner, producing signage, equipment and stock in breath-taking turnaround time just days before Christmas, and the kiosk quietly built up its sales and popularity day by day. Our thanks are due to Shirley White, who stepped up to run the shop at a moment’s notice and dealt calmly and efficiently with power failures, ceaseless demand for non-existent cigarettes, requests to take care of car keys, and suchlike non-retail activities on a daily basis. As a fund-raising initiative it had limited success but as a learning experience it was invaluable.
Granny’s Pool Upgrade: the learning experience will be of greatest value in deciding the way forward with the Granny’s Pool upgrade. The up-grade project was initiated by a comment from St Francis Tourism about the deterioration of this one-time beauty spot, which should be a little gem but which has declined into an unlovely, tired, scruffy half-kilometre of coastline. Since it is a vital link in the coastal path from Cape St Francis lighthouse to the Kromme Estuary, all its potential is being lost. As the anchor tenants of the locality, we commissioned a talented local architect, Kirsten Thompson, to draw up – pro bono – a vision for what the area could be, bearing in mind the need to cater for community segments from fishermen to toddlers. Her design incorporates robust materials for walkways, steps, seating and braai facilities that discourage vandalism and theft, and the layout provides a natural flow through the immediate environment and the shoreline on either side. The drawings are available for viewing on our website.
Walkway linking Granny’s Pool and Main Beach: every project has to start somewhere, and we took a decision to prioritise the access between Granny’s Pool and Main Beach, a stretch that is impassable at high tide and challenging even at low tide.Ken McGregor is that most useful of committee members, an engineer, and after discussion with Garth Perry he commissioned a draughtsman to draw up preliminary plans for a walkway. It will now be possible to cost this and to conduct the necessary environmental assessment, and we are grateful to Colleen Ebersohn who has volunteered to do the EIA for us. The drawings are also available for viewing on the website, and we have raised the initial funds for making this idea a reality. Our next step is to get the necessary permissions and agreements in order to get the project started.
Heritage Centre and surrounds: Kirsten’s vision goes well beyond the access flow along the coastline, however. It includes an outdoor educational facility, a learning-orientated playground area, space for seasonal pop-up trade and a coffee shop/natural history museum in the Heritage Eco Centre. This space, in this amazing location, should be open and available to visitors daily, not just occasionally: our natural heritage should always be on display, not locked behind bars and trellidors. But as all museums know, keeping the doors open requires income.Incorporating a coffee shop into the museum is the obvious way to generate that income, and there are St Francis Bay stalwarts who are keen to bring their long experience and expertise to such an initiative.
This vision was presented to the Kouga Municipality at the end of July 2016 and we asked for three things:
- A long-term lease – 10 years, renewable for a further 10
- Retention of the current annual rental fee
- Re-zoning to allow commercial activity
The proposal was well-received by the then council and the necessary infrastructure maintenance, long neglected, was put in hand. However, local elections intervened and the long-term vision must now be re-presented to the new council.
Waste Recycling Business: as environmentalists, recycling of waste is always going to be a priority for us. We have taken on the role of facilitator to bring together three key role players in establishing a recycling facility in St Francis.Those role players are the municipality, an established recycling enterprise, and a funder. The recycling enterprise is Enviroman, based in Jeffreys Bay, and the funding agency is one of the local wind farms. Our objective is to set up a commercial undertaking for waste recycling, where waste pickers are paid for recyclables delivered to the enterprise. The enterprise would create a small number of permanent jobs and a larger number of casual jobs, it would create a cleaner environment, and it would remove a substantial quantity of waste from the municipal refuse burden. Ken McGregor has taken point position on this project and arranged talks with the municipal waste division, who are enthusiastic about the initiative because it builds on their own plans: we have also had talks with Enviroman, who are willing to partner with us in a bid to establish the business even though they are unsure if St Francis can produce a large enough quantity of recyclables: we have discussed the plan with Rotary, who feel it complements their ongoing programme with the children: and we have put in an application for socio-economic development funding to the Kouga Wind Farm. Their community liaison officer welcomed the proposal as one of the few commercial proposals they have received, and we are hopeful of a positive response to the application.Ken can provide further information to anyone wanting more details.
An Estuary Management Plan for the Kromme River was tabled by Greg Miller when he joined the committee.The Integrated Coastal Management Act requires that an EMP be drawn up for the estuaries of the Republic, and the responsible management authority is the municipality in most cases – as is the case regarding the Kromme. According to the C.A.P.E. estuaries conservation plan, the Kromme has been identified as a top priority estuary needing rehabilitation: excessive siltation has led to poor water quality and there is urgent need for alien clearing and for dredging.
Dredging without a management plan is environmentally irresponsible, and in view of the dredging of the Kromme envisaged in Phase 2 of the Worley Parsons recommendations, the Kromme Enviro-Trust took up Greg’s proposal and set about investigating what would be required to produce an Estuary Management Plan. In view of more pressing demands on the municipal budget and in the absence of an environmental officer at the municipality, we undertook to do some preliminary exploration so that we could discuss the initiative from a better-informed position. We consulted a number of parties with expertise or experience with EMPs – DEDEA, ECPTA, academics at NMMU, SAEON – and discovered that a great deal of research has already been carried out on the Kromme. This suggested that the exercise might be less costly than envisaged, and we went so far as to contact some of the recommended environmental assessment practitioners to gauge the possible cost and time frame required. Colleen Ebersohn was one of those practitioners.
Now that there has been a change of management at the municipality, it is possible that an environmental officer will be appointed: even if this is not the case, we will be discussing the EMP with the responsible person at the municipality and hope that together we can make it happen.
Having dealt with the new projects, we can turn to the long-standing ones. These include the Eco-Kids programme, Thyspunt and our interaction with the wind farms.There is also the International Coastal Clean Up initiative, the Two Harbours Walk, the Community Garden, and the Friends of the Environment programme.
Eco-kids has been educating kids through fun outings for the past 7 years. We joined Eco-tots and Eco-Kids to become one as Eco-Kids and this programme is designed for children 12 years and under, where children 8 and under are accompanied by an adult.
Our mission for Eco-Kids is to instil an enviromental interest, through hands-on interaction, which will ultimately become a deep love for nature. With this love they will naturally respect and understand the necessity for every part of it, and hopefully grow up to be adults that play an active role in promoting, protecting and/or educating on enviromental topics.
Each month a different topic is chosen, and great fun is had at every outing as the Eco Kids discover the “treasures” of the world in an interactive and demonstrative way. The children (and parents) really look forward to the fun outings that we have each month.
We have created the concept of the Big 5 of St Francis Bay, which incorporates five endemic creatures – and covers plants (Brunsvigia Gregaria), mammal (Cape Clawless Otter), reptilian (Eastern Cape Dwarf Chameleon), birds (African Oyster Catcher) and “fish” species of sorts (Loligos Vulgaris aka Chokka).
We have approximately 30 kids that are registered with whom all pay a nominal membership fee towards some of our costs. Last year saw us introducing a fee for the first time as it was always a donations based programme. It was interesting to see how the interest and numbers grew once formalising the membership fees and options.
2017 looks to be another great year as our group grows and continues to explore the beautiful area in which we live. We will be formalising the programme further to instil the pledge we have created as well as introducing the Boy Scout/Girl Guide type of recognition system, as well as the purchasing of promotional material.
Thyspunt: Hilton Thorpe kindly agreed to continue to monitor events surrounding the proposed nuclear power plant at Thyspunt, and in October the Kromme Enviro-Trust in conjunction with the Property Owners association paid for Hilton to attend the National Nuclear Regulator’s international information conference. Hilton reports that there is strong political will to proceed with the nuclear programme countered by strong determination from treasury to resist anything the country cannot afford, although the Finance Minister has said that government will support the nuclear build. The new draft Integrated Resource Plan suggests that there is insufficient demand to justify a nuclear build at this stage, but in December the Energy Minister gazetted the appointment of Eskom and Necsa (the SA Nuclear Energy Corporation) as procurers of 9 600 MW of nuclear power by 2030.
The Kromme Enviro-Trust is a member of the Thyspunt Alliance, whose response to these events is to seek to ensure due process. The TA has engaged with the Environmental Affairs Department over the final environmental impact report and will engage with the National Nuclear Regulator when that public participation process begins shortly. Environmental lawyer Cormac Cullinan has been engaged to maintain a watching brief in preparation for litigation, should that be required. A major concern is safety, with a single escape route for the population of Cape St Francis, Sea Vista and St Francis Bay, all of which fall within 16km of the Thyspunt site. A full report from Hilton can be found by clicking here.
Renewable Energy: we have engaged with wind farm developers for the past six years, prompted by concerns about their effect on our environment, particularly visually and in respect of our birdlife and bat population.Renewable energy power producers position themselves as ‘green energy’ suppliers and our challenging them led to the establishment of a joint conservation initiative for this district. The Jeffreys Bay wind farm, the Kouga wind farm, the Tsitsikamma community wind farm, the Gibson Bay wind farm and the Oyster Bay wind farm have made a commitment to work with the Kromme Enviro-Trust in funding the employment of a stewardship facilitator (once called a conservation officer) to establish protected areas in this district for precious elements of biodiversity that are endangered by development. Among these areas are the scattered erven around St Francis Bay which have been earmarked for preservation. The association is called the Greater Kromme Stewardship (GKS) and the stewardship facilitator is Wentzel Coetzer. He has identified eight potential sites so far where the landowners are interested in protecting species and where the biodiversity warrants protection, and great progress has been made in assessing those sites and initiating the protected area status. Wentzel is available to answer any questions about stewardship and his work with landowners in the area, and there is information on display regarding the GKS.
Our initial concerns about birds and bats were well-founded, though not necessarily in the way we foresaw when the wind farms were first proposed. It turns out that raptors are the bird species most at risk, and our Jackal Buzzard population has suffered a significant number of casualties. Of greater concern are the Martial Eagles and Black Harriers, both threatened species, which have incurred a number of fatalities. These are all limited to the Jeffreys Bay wind farm at this stage, so it is clear that selecting the right site for these facilities is absolutely essential. We are working with the wind farm on ways to avoid future fatalities but there are no quick fixes and we remain extremely concerned about the situation. In the meantime members of the St Francis Bay Bird Club continue to monitor all existing and potential wind farm sites in the area on a six-weekly basis so that we have the necessary data to oppose any new developments that pose similar threats to the raptor population and to re-direct developers towards more appropriate sites.
International Coastal Clean Up: 2016 was the twentieth time that this event was held in the three Cape provinces. The total number of volunteers that participated during the 2016 clean-ups was 9 243 (3 170 audited clean-ups and 6 073 non-audited clean-ups). Severe weather experienced during the clean-up period led to a drop in volunteer numbers compared to the large number in 2015. Unfortunately we in St Francis Bay were among the unfortunate groups that had to cancel due to heavy rainfall.
After the International Coastal Clean-up, the reports and data provide an assessment into the scale of debris pollution affecting the South African aquatic environment. A positive outflow of the last few years’ clean-ups is the use of site data in awareness and education as well as pro-actively reacting to addressing the material of concern within that specific area. The use of data is becoming an integral part of our Clean-up campaigns and education.
A comment that was echoed by some coordinators was that there was less waste on the beaches than in the past. Unfortunately the data does not support these sentiments but it might be true for areas with monthly clean-ups.
This could be an answer for St Francis Bay in 2017, is to have regular clean-ups. We may not clean our Beaches entirely but we can certainly keep it under control,
NEXT DATE FOR INTERNATIONAL CLEAN-UP DAY: 16 September 2017
Two Harbours Walk: we continue to maintain the Two Harbours Walk, which is now a part of the highly successful Chokka Trail. Esti Stewart and the hikers keep us posted regarding any spots needing repair and Bruce Sahli keeps the path in good order. This part of the coastal path connects the Port and Granny’s Pool, a key link in the flow of access along our shoreline.
Community Garden: this public asset continues to provide pleasure to the community because of a few people who quietly keep it beautiful. They don’t look for recognition but they deserve a huge accolade for what they do. Dusty and Ed Elton weed and prune and keep the garden in order; they pick up litter and repair anything that gets broken: they never claim any expenses but just get things sorted. James Potts keeps the section in front of his house tidy, and the Links sends a team once a month to cut the grass and help with the major jobs, also at their own expense. There is no extra planting – the garden shows off whatever is in season and as Dusty says, “We let Mother Nature do the job.” The only exception was when we planted trees, aloes and clivias on World Environment Day in honour of Godfried. Not all of these survived but enough are still there to pay tribute to him.
Friends of the Environment: the monthly talks at the Heritage Centre were discontinued when the new committee took over and had to focus only on essential business. In August Yvonne Bosman volunteered to resuscitate the programme and to manage it, charging attendees a small fee to be donated to Kromme Enviro-Trust funding. This was gratefully accepted, and two very successful talks have now been held under the new umbrella of ‘Friends of the Environment’. It is intended that these events continue in 2017, to be scheduled for every second month, and we must sincerely thank Yvonne for this initiative.
Archiving, book sales and fund-raising: A small Himalaya of printed historical records has been reduced to manageable proportions thanks to heroic efforts by Bev Howard and Yvonne Bosman. Scanning and electronic capture is now in progress thanks to Peter de Wet, and we hope that in future fewer trees will be sacrificed in the name of the Kromme Enviro-Trust. The archive will be accessible via the website when the task is complete.
Sales of The Monument Around Us continue through the Book and I and through the Quaysyde restaurant. R11 000 was added to this reserve in the 2016 financial year, representing about 50 books sold. This fund is reserved for “discretionary use for really worthwhile community projects or in communal contingencies”.Proceeds from those books sold through Quaysyde have been designated for the soup kitchen in Sea Vista, but the remaining funds are not earmarked for any specific project or contingency at this stage.
A very exciting opportunity was presented to us at our most recent membership drive at the morning market.Lance Kabot of the St Francis Brewing Co has offered us 50c on every unit of Kromme River Witbier sold, in recognition of the link with our name. So I appeal to you beer drinkers to patronise the St Francis Brewing Company and order lots of Kromme River Witbier, with the perfect excuse that it will benefit the environment.
Fund raising was not prioritised in the 2016 financial year and its absence is clear in the income statement. However, we made up for it in December. The committee decided to put all its efforts into one major fundraising event, and that event was The Par 3 Amazing Race, a golf day with a difference. A combination of golf challenges and environmental treasure hunt, it took place on the St Francis Links Par 3 course. The Links has a Par 3 course laid out within the main course, with a tee box that is anything from 70 to 130 metres from the pin. It’s a great test of the short game, and we made it even more testing, with yields, speed bumps, intersections and other challenges borrowed from TV’s Amazing Race. And that’s not all: on every hole there was an environmental quiz question to be answered, and on many a trophy to be searched for. We had a full field – in fact we even had a few extras – and with the entry fees and generous sponsorships of golf holes and refreshments plus sales of mulligans and auction items, we cleared R45 000 on the day. There were promises of additional donations which have not yet been fulfilled so we have not made the R100 000 that was so optimistically publicised, but we remain hopeful. It is intended that these funds go towards building the walkway between Granny’s Pool and Main Beach, as discussed earlier. We will repeat the golf day in 2017 owing to popular demand, and already have the first entries from enthusiastic participants in 2016.
Thank you to all our members and other supporters. We could not have achieved all of these things without you and we will not be able to conclude them successfully without your continued support. One of our members said she was happy to pay her subs so that we would keep doing the things that needed to be done so she doesn’t have to. We will keep doing our best for the environment on your behalf, and your subs make it possible. But if you want to do more than pay subs we will be very happy to have your help with our projects so please talk to us?