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ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS AND TOURISM PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
24 August 2004
COMMITTEE BUDGET PLANNING AND PROTECTED AREAS AMENDMENT BILL: DELIBERATION
This is an edited version of a report produced by kind courtesy of Contact Trust: www.contacttrust.org.za
Chairperson: Ms E Thabethe (ANC)
Documents handed out:
PowerPoint Presentation of Proposed Changes to Bill
National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Amendment Bill [B2-2004]
The Committee first heard from Parliament's Legislation and Oversight Division, on the budget plans for all Committees. They then discussed the Protected Areas Amendment Bill, and in particular the amendment to include the National Parks section. This issue came under a separate jurisdiction and so had to be written up and passed after the rest of the Bill. They then heard from Department about its plans for National Tourism Month in September.
Parliament's Legislation and Oversight Division briefing
Ms Keswa, the Division Manager, gave the Committee a business plan briefing. Guidelines had been developed to assist Committees in better planning, which would lead to appropriate budget requests more likely to be accepted by Treasury. Many Committees had not understood why their business plans had been rejected and budgets cut. If there was no clear link between the plan and the budget, the Ministry would not award the money requested. Treasury was very conscious of the limited time available, and would cut back on projects that would not reach their goals within the allocated time-span.
She said that it was important for Committees to sketch out a three- to five-year plan, in order to clarify projected expenditure. Many Committees had said that a five-year plan was unfeasible. Therefore, she implored the Committee to at least look at a three-year plan. Most Committees were unintentionally working on a mid-term time-span, as most plans could not be implemented within a year anyway. She requested that the Committee always make provision for research costs, whether outsourced or not, and to be aware of the relationship between national, regional and local authorities, as there was a perception that some sectors were encroaching on the decisions of others.
The Chairperson said that an example of a budget would be circulated amongst the Committee members for comment.
Mr D Olifant (ANC) reminded the Committee that research was of paramount importance, as there was a limited understanding of environmental issues among the country's population. He wondered how to make sure that relevant research had an impact on policy.
Ms Keswa said that in the budget example, space had been included for a researcher per Committee. This was a flexible arrangement, but for now this would be the goal. She hoped the Committee would be able to come up with a preliminary budget by the end of August, which could be then be refined.
A Member raised the concern of being dictated to by the budgetary restrictions, or even by any inherent limitations in the layout of the budget example.
Ms Keswa emphasised that the example being circulated was only an outline, and that the Committee could use its discretion.
Department on Protected Areas Amendment Bill
Mr C Older, Department Director-General, claimed that the Bill was an incredibly important piece of legislation, one that would update laws from 1976. This old legislation was unconstitutional, and failed to look at protected areas as a whole. It was vital to bring the conservation system up to date and into line with international thinking, as voiced at the International World Parks Congress last year. Progressive notions of park management focused on bringing people and conservation dually into the picture, and exploring how communities could benefit from conservation. Conservation should be done with an eye on benefits to communities, their participation in decision-making, and on maintaining sustainable use of protected land.
The Department had realised last year that the Bill would have to be split into two sections. The first was a Section 76 Bill dealing with all aspects of protected areas, except for national parks. This had been passed and signed by the President in February 2004. The second section focused solely on national parks, as they fell under 'exclusive national jurisdiction', and so had to be written as a Section 75 Bill, passed as an amendment, and added to the original Bill. This was the aim of this discussion.
He introduced the Department's Deputy Director in charge of Biodiversity, Mr Fundisile Mketeni, and Mr David Mabunda, the Chief Executive of South African National Parks.Mr D Mabunda went on to voice his approval of the new legislation, saying that the multiple amendments to the old laws had made them almost incomprehensible. He was particularly satisfied that the legislation provided guidelines on protected areas management. He pointed out the change in the governance structure. The original Act had created a board of 18 members, that was too large to manage and bad at communicating. He emphasised the vital importance in turning away from the traditional conservation model that had alienated affected communities.
Mr F Mketeni then presented the Bill in detail to the Committee. For more information please see the attached documents.
The Chairperson asked about the criteria for rating ecosystems.
Mr Older responded that the Bill had not included this information as the process was fairly simple. There were 'special nature reserves', 'national parks' and 'nature reserves'. They felt it was unnecessary to include a detailed register of these within the Bill.
Mr Olifant asked for more clarification on communities' involvement in park management.
Mr Older said that the Bill contained explicit references to the rights of landholders outside government, in particular communities with land title in national parks, or communities that had wanted land declared as a national park. Gradually communities would start to own more land within national parks, and that this, which had been perceived as a threat under the old legislation, could be perceived as a new challenge to ensure that communities benefitted. He mentioned the people of the Northern region of Kruger National Park, who were developing a whole tourism economy, similar to what was happening at Dwesa-Cwebe on the Wild Coast. He saw these instances as positive examples of what could happen if communities were allowed access.
Mr M Moses (ANC) asked about mining rights and whether they would be influenced by this legislation.
Mr Older responded that the issue of mining had been thoroughly exhausted by the previous Committee. The Act had been amended to include communities' interests - if a community wished to mine, they could deproclaim the area as a national park, in order for mining to take place.
A member asked about restitution rights and the Bill's impact on these.
A Member commented that the Bill would influence other legislation regarding biodiversity. She wanted to know what influence the Bill would have on legislation in neighbouring countries' as some national parks cut across international borders, and how this would affect funding allocations for park maintenance.
Mr Mketeni responded that a Joint Management Board would focus on issues shared by neighbouring countries. Funding was a separate issue and most likely to be individual countries' responsibility. South Africa was a signatory to the Convention on National Biodiversity. On the question of local communities involvement in parks, R1.5 million had been spent on establishing an indigenous nursery, and other such projects would continue.
A Member emphasised that it was important to choose board members to highlight the country's diversity.
Mr Mketeni responded that this was covered in the Bill's Clause 59, subclause 4, which obligated the Minister to ensure diversity.
The Chair person said that the Committee should discuss these issues further at the next meeting, tentatively set for 7 September. On other business, she reminded the Committee that a delegation of five would be sent to the 'Johannesburg+2 Summit' to be held at the beginning of September.
Mr Older mentioned that September was National Tourism Month. He invited Members to a launch breakfast at Kirstenbosch that Thursday.
The meeting was adjourned.
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