Yet another very interesting and successful year for The Kromme Enviro-Trust, with so many new projects started and successfully completed, all with our motto in mind – Preserve, Protect and Promote.
Often the words “bunny huggers” get thrown our way which is actually a very inaccurate nickname. Conservation and environmental issues do not always constitute such behaviour: with the amount of human influences, conservation can be a vicious cycle and often very difficult decisions and actions need to be made to counter such dreadful actions.
Our vision remains clear for the next year and we will continue to Preserve, Protect and Promote our beloved little village.
We encountered a few changes within the committee, with notably Maggie Langlands stepping down as Chair and handing over the role to me which I gladly accepted.
Unfortunately Maggie is in Cape Town and cannot be with us this afternoon, but in her absence I would like to extend my gratitude to her as she guided me through the year and really made it an easy journey. Let’s not forget the team that also walked the path with us: Ken McGregor, Peter de Wet, Geanne Darke, Chanel Hauvette, Greg Miller, Theonie Kirten, Shirley White, Andrew Barton, John Hay, Nevil Hulett, Dom and Alex Gotte and the late Bev Howard. As you can hear, a strong team with various skills and knowledge, but a team that has gelled very well together. I thank each and every one of them for their contributions over the past year.
Instead of a moment of silence I would like us all to give a round of applause for Bev Howard, who was always in the back ground organising everything we needed to be done. The first true test for us was this AGM. “YOU WERE MISSED, BEV”.
I would like to discuss the projects we have completed this year as I believe it’s more important to give praise for what has already taken place, than stand here making promises about what’s still to come.
Sea Vista School Bush Trail
This was an interesting project we entered into together with Caryl Logie and her botanical group. It was Caryl’s idea to have a bush path cleared on the Sea Vista School grounds to educate the children on the local fauna and flora. We loved the concept, so agreed to fund the clearing of the path. We made the decision to use local labour from Sea Vista, and specifically people who were involved in the school one way or another. So we managed to get a lovely path that the kids could walk through and learn all about the indigenous plants. It did not stop there; it was then suggested that we should get rid of all the alien plants in the area. The area was full of Port Jackson and Rooikrans, and not just single plants but fairly large plantations. The Principal, Mr Coenraad, came to the party and committed himself to organising a few parents with chainsaws to assist in clearing the alien vegetation, and we sponsored the poison to be painted on all the cut stumps to prevent re-growth. Let me try to paint the picture: we arrived on the Saturday morning that was set for the clean-up, and on arrival all I heard was the sound of 10 chainsaws at work, with a big chunk of the plantation already cut down, and school children also there removing all the cut down trees and placing them on a big pile. It was such a lovely sight to see all these fathers and children volunteering and working together to remove the alien trees from the school property. This was a hot day and at about 13h30, after almost non-stop cutting, I hear this, “GUYS – we better finish up – we still need to drive to Tsitsikamma as we kick off our rugby game @ 16h00”. This really made my day. A project that was a great success!
Dust Bins and Fishing Line Bins
This project is not quite a completed project, but on the Two Harbours Walk and along the coastline we will be installing new dustbins. I have found a supplier and we have received the first 4 bins which will be installed shortly. The fishing line bins, an ongoing project, are regularly installed and replaced. An order of 20 pipes has just arrived and we will be installing along the coast of St Francis and Cape St Francis and we will also be sending some to Oyster Bay. They certainly do work and are being used, as we often empty them of fishing line, plastic and funnily enough, disposable nappies. A new definition of “discarded fishing line”.
This was a new project this year and the start of banning balloons in the annual water fights, as the side effects of the plastic pollution are deadly to our ocean life. There was a bit of confusion with this, as it was interpreted as banning the water fights completely. This is not the case, but we are banning the use of balloons. An objection was lodged, claiming that we should have put it into the bylaws for our threatened fines to be valid. However, discarding of balloons in the sea, river or canals (or the releasing thereof) is classified as illegal dumping which is already prohibited in the bylaws, so the use of balloons is 100% a finable offence, and hopefully over time we will start seeing a drastic difference. We have had very mixed opinions but the average report is that it certainly made a difference and fewer balloons were used.
Thank you to all who attended the annual Coastal Clean-up. It was a great success and this year the weather played its part and we had a fantastic day, with a large amount of rubbish collected.
Recycling Over the Holiday Season
As we all know, a huge need in St Francis is a proper recycling plant where we can all take our recyclables. There are a number of factors influencing this, which make it a little bit trickier than most realise.
We decided to approach the municipality for assistance at least for the holiday season. They willingly agreed and gave us use of the area behind the Fire Station, with two skips, one for cans and the other for glass. They even supplied us with helping hands to assist the public and control what was placed in the bins. So this was the start; it worked really well so stage two will hopefully be on the cards this year with the inclusion of plastics and paper. There is no guarantee on this but we will try our best to step recycling up to the next level.
Walkway and Heritage Centre Upgrade
The EIA is still under way for the walkway but we are making great progress. Once the walkway has been approved we will start selling metre sections for commemorative tributes: the idea is that it will become a “Memory Lane” walkway so each metre will have a plaque in memory of a resident who has passed on.
The Heritage Centre upgrade is also making steady progress and we are in the final stages of negotiations with the Kouga Municipality; once this has been completed the new look natural history museum and coffee shop will get underway.
We are the direct contact for any washed up mammal, be it alive or dead. We will close off the area and control the situation, working closely with Dr Hoffman from Bayworld who controls all washed up mammals along this coastline. So if you see our signage please leave the animal: it means it is being monitored and taken care of. We humans often get involved needlessly and actually cause more harm to the animal, thinking we are helping it.
Geanné Darke continues to run this very successful educational programme, taking members – and their parents – on memorable outings and helping them appreciate the wonder and beauty of our natural environment.
I am happy to say that the proposal to develop a nuclear power station at Thyspunt has been shelved, at least for the present. The Department of Environmental Affairs has approved the Duynefontein site for the construction of any future nuclear power (i.e. next to the existing nuclear facility at Koeberg and not at Thyspunt). A new EIA will have to be done if ever the Thyspunt site is targeted for further nuclear facilities in the future and we can therefore remove Thyspunt from our agenda going forward. Our thanks go to Hilton Thorpe and Trudi Malan, who have worked tirelessly to ensure that Eskom and its environmental contractors observe due process and acknowledge the impact that such a development would have on our area.
Friends of Environment Talks
We re-started this very popular activity , and what a great success it has been. We have had talks about raptors being poisoned, about living with Bushmen, about the effects of pollution on the ocean – there was not one of these talks that was not incredibly interesting and we certainly look forward to a year full of new exciting topics. A huge thank you to Yvonne Bosman for helping organise these talks, together with the late Bev Howard.
The Two Harbours Walk
We continue to manage and maintain the Two Harbours Walk. We are undertaking some alterations and are in the process of revamping all the stairs and paths. This should be completed by the end of March, but we will continue to maintain as and when needed.
Once again Ed and Dusty Elton, how you have kept the garden looking so fantastic through this drought is simply remarkable, thank you so much again for all your efforts in the garden. It really does not go unnoticed. Thank you too to St Francis Links for helping maintain this little gem.
Our presence at the Saturday morning market has really been a great success; not only do we sign up new members at every market, we sell Monument Around Us and Coastal Treasure books as well as caps. But it is also a great opportunity for our members or the general public to ask questions and keep updated on the current and new environmental projects, so should you need any information or would like to know what our plans are for the year ahead, pay us a visit at the market.
Par 3 Amazing Race Golf Day – Fundraiser
The second year running, and once again a full field of eager golfers. We had some lovely rain on the day which we could not complain about considering our situation, but that did not stop everyone arriving to play and having a great day. Some much needed funds were raised, as reflected in the financial report.
Renewable energy and Greater Kromme Stewardship initiative
To add to the existing four – soon to be five – local wind farms we now have the proposed Impofu Wind Farm project. Red Cap Energy proposes to develop up to three wind farms in between the already-operating farms, as well as a power line grid connection back to Port Elizabeth.
Red Cap has said that the total number of turbines to be constructed on the site would be capped at 120. That is double the number of turbines at the large Jeffreys Bay wind farm and about equal to the number of turbines currently in operation at the 3 other wind farms (Kouga, Gibson Bay and Tsitsikamma). Red Cap have already started the public participation and environmental authorisation process required for the planning of the wind farms development. Their first stakeholder meeting is on Wednesday 7 Feb 2018 at The Links.
Red Cap, as well as the companies operating the other wind farms in the area, is a member of the Greater Kromme Stewardship initiative, along with ourselves. The Greater Kromme Stewardship initiative is a conservation project that brings together wind farms, conservationists, farmers (read landowners) and government, who share a goal to protect the natural environment. These partners are using an approach called Biodiversity Stewardship, an exciting new legal process that can declare nature reserves (or other forms of defined conservation) on private land or state land. It can be for a whole property, or just an environmentally important part of a property.
The initial four-year GKS agreement ends in August 2019. We are concerned about this limited short term commitment, considering that the life-span of a wind farm is 20 years. There are currently no financial commitments made beyond the four years.
Also, of considerable concern is that the project’s capacity for leverage is not utilised fully. Conservation Outcomes has shown and forwarded proposals of economic and socio-economic development opportunities arising from the GKS interactions with landowners and official bodies. Two people are employed full time by the project, and there is potential for ten times that number to find employment as a direct result of the project, if leveraged effectively.
We are keenly awaiting the imminent proclamation of the first nature reserves established under the GKS banner. That will be a tremendous boost for the Kouga area and us ordinary people who care for our environment.
A huge thank you to all our members for the continued support, and to the committee for the past year of commitments. Here’s to a positive year ahead: let’s put the environment first and we will always win.