The Select Committee on Land Reform, Environment, Mineral Resources and Energy in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) met for the consideration and adoption of changes effected by the State and Parliamentary Legal Advisors after the negotiating mandate meetings on the National Forest Amendment Bill [B11B – 2016] (s76). There was also re-voting on the new revised negotiating mandate on the National Environmental Management Laws Amendment (NEMLA) Bill [B14D – 2017] (s76), submitted and introduced by the Gauteng Provincial Legislature
The Chairperson made brief opening remarks, and checked the attendance of provinces and the legal team. She said that for three consecutive weeks, the meeting had been postponed, as Members had been in the plenary sessions. The legislation the Committee was dealing with was very important, as communities were looking forward to the outcome. The Committee should take its work seriously, as tomorrow history would judge it on the work it had done.
National Forest Amendment Bill C-list
Ms Phumelele Ngema, Parliamentary Legal Adviser, said the first change made was on the deliberations on the destruction of national forests under Clause 1 of the Bill. It was proposed that "destruction" should mean any action where one or more trees in a national forest dies, or its undergrowth is removed for the purposes of land use or resource use.
"Exceptional circumstances" is a widely used term and is not advisable to be defined. The Long Beach judgment showed that the courts appreciate what exceptional circumstances entail, and how to construe the term. This amendment deals with Section 7 and 338.
The definition of "new land use" in Clause 1 should mean any human activity leading to the use of land which would require the removal of a national forest that is not restricted to land use required for land use approval, zoning or rezoning.
"Woodland" should be redefined to mean a group of indigenous trees which are not a natural forest, but whose crowns cover at least five percent of the area occupied and which may, in a degraded sense, have a crown cover of less than five percent, or by any vegetation type be declared by the Minister to be woodland by notice in the Gazette.
Clause 7 deals with Section 16. Clause 4 has a new insertion that a person may not conduct an activity in a protected area which is consistent with recreation or any other management objectives of the area, except under a licence from the Minister. Home owners had applied to construct their houses in an area which was already declared as a natural forest. The Minister had refused to give the licence, and this had gone to court to determine any exceptional circumstances. No amendments had been made to the C List on this, as it was deemed to be problematic for substantive law.
Clause 7 on title deeds is to be rejected, because Ministers have the discretion to request title deeds.
Clause 9 is amended in Section 23, which deals with other vulnerable groups which are not included in the current provision. No person may engage in any prospecting or mining activity in a forest except in the event of an existing agreement to mine, or for road maintenance.
Clause 10 amends Section 34 relating to vulnerable groups. This deals with the constitution of the Council, and deals with women, youth and persons with disabilities to also be considered for representation on the Council.
The Chairperson handed over to Members for any questions.
A Member asked for clarity on why defining "exceptional circumstances" was not advisable. Subsequent clauses indicated flexibility, so this was not clear.
Ms Ngema said the proposed amendment, that a definition be given for exceptional circumstances, was not advisable.
Members agreed on all amendments to the C-list.
Gauteng Amended Negotiating Mandate: NEMLA Bill
The Committee received the Gauteng amended negotiating mandate on the National Environmental Laws Amendment (NEMLA) Bill
The Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), Limpopo and the North West supported the amendments. The Northern Cape and Western Cape abstained from voting.
The Free State, Gauteng, KZN, Limpopo and Mpumalanga supported the amendments. The North West and the Western Cape abstained from voting.
Gauteng, KZN, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West supported the amendments. The Northern Cape and Western Cape abstained from voting. The Free State was not on the platform to vote.
Gauteng, KZN, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North West and Northern Cape supported the amendments. The Western Cape abstained from voting.
Clauses 5 to 21
Gauteng, KZN, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West supported the amendments. The Northern Cape and Western Cape abstained from voting.
Committee minutes and reports
The Committee considered and adopted its minutes and reports of 19 June, and 19, 24 and 31 August.
The Chairperson made brief closing remarks and thanked all present in the meeting.
The meeting was adjourned.
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