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ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS AND TOURISM PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
7 September 2004
NATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT: PROTECTED AREAS AMENDMENT BILL: ADOPTION
Chairperson: Ms E Thabethe (ANC)
Documents handed out:
National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Amendment Bill [B2-2004]
Amendments agreed to: Protected Areas Bill
The Department briefed the Committee on amendments to the Bill. Some new amendments were introduced. There was a debate on whether the Bill should contain a clause on the protection of areas surrounding marine protected areas. The Independent Democrats felt that it was pointless to have protected areas if the integrity of areas surrounding them would not be protected. It was suggested that the protection of such areas should be dealt with under the Marine Living Resources Act. The African Christian Democratic Party suggested that the Bill should also deal with the issue of biosphere reserves. It was agreed that the issue was important but has to be debated at a different level. The Committee adopted the Bill with amendments.
Dr G Cowan (Chief Directorate: Transfrontier Conservation and Protected Areas), Mr F Mketeni (Deputy Director-General: Biodiversity and Conservation) and Mr D van Schalkwyk (Chief Directorate: Transfrontier Conservation and Protected Areas) represented the Department. Mr H Smuts (State Law Adviser) also attended the meeting.
Mr Mketeni took the Committee through the Bill without going into the details of the amendments. It was felt that there was no need to further explain the amendments because they had already been explained in previous meetings. New amendments were made to the Bill.
Clause 1 Amendment of Section 1 of Act 57 of 2003
Mr Mketeni pointed out new definitions inserted in the principal Act. Some of the definitions inserted in the principal Act are "board, Chief Executive Officer, marine protected area and national park". Subparagraph (b) in the definition of "national park" was removed.
A new definition of "protected environment" was added to the Bill. A "protected environment means-
an area declared, or regarded as having been declared, in terms of section 28 as a protected environment;
an area which before or after the commencement of this Act was or is declared or designated in terms of provincial legislation for a purpose for which that area could in terms of section 28(2) be declared as a protected environment
an area which was a lake area in terms of the Lake Areas Development Act (Act No 39 of 1975), immediately before the repeal of that Act by section 90(1) of this Act,
and includes an area declared in terms of section 28(1) as part of an area referred to in paragraph (a), (b) or (c) above;".
Insertion of Section 14 in Act 57 of 2003
The current Act has no Section 14. Mr Mketeni proposed the insertion of Section 14 dealing with marine protected areas.
Insertion of Part 2 in Chapter 3 of Act 57 of 2003
The word "private" in the proposed Section 20(3) was removed. This means that the provision would apply to any piece of land.
Amendment of Section 47 of Act 57 of 2003
The proposed amendment of Section 47 of the principal Act was further amended by the substitution of the words "an altitude of less than 2 500 feet" with "a level of less than 2 500 feet above its highest point". This amendment follows a debate that the Committee had on "height above sea level" and "height above the ground".
Insertion of Chapter 5 in Act 57 of 2003
Mr Mketeni proposed the insertion of Chapter 5 which deals with the South African National Parks.
Mr D Mokoena (ANC) felt that there was a conflict between the proposed Clause 56(a) and (g). He said that the proposed clause provides that the South African National Parks may appoint its own staff and the staff may charge fees for any work performed or services rendered by them.
Mr Mketeni said that the proposed clause allows the South African National Parks to appoint its staff and also to charge fees for work performed or services rendered by it. Contrary to what the Member thought, it does not provide that workers employed by the National Parks could charge fees for services rendered or work performed by them.
Mr Mokoena asked why it was necessary to allow National Parks to appoint its own staff.
Mr D van Schalkwyk replied that the essence of the provision is that National Parks would employ people in terms of the National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act and not in terms of the Public Service Act.
Mr Cowan said that the word "national park" should be inserted just before "nature reserve" in Sections 28(2)(d), (f) and 28(6) of the Principal Act.
Mr L Greyling (ID) asked if the Bill contains provisions dealing with mining in and around protected areas. He also asked if the Minister of Environmental Affairs has any powers to stop mining in and around protected areas.
Mr Mketeni replied that the Department of Minerals and Energy (DME) handles mining issues. There should be an environmental impact assessment (EIA) before any mining activity is conducted. The Minister of Environmental Affairs regulates the EIA process.
Mr van Schalkwyk added that no mining would be allowed inside national parks. Those who have existing rights to carry out mining activities in protected areas would still continue with the activities. New applications for mining in such areas would be considered by both the DME and the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT).
Mr Greyling asked if the EIA is done by DME or DEAT. His understanding was that DME would do its own EIA. He wondered if this was changed by new regulations on EIAs.
Mr van Schalkwyk replied that the new regulations on EIAs had been released for public comment. The DME would have to comply with the regulations.
Mr Greyling asked what would happen in cases where there are mining activities outside marine protected area but the activities have some impact on marine protected areas.
Mr van Schalkwyk replied that the EIA should also take into account the impact the activity would have even outside the mining area.
Mr K Durr (ACDP) asked if the Bill would increase or diminish the status of National Parks.
Mr Cowan replied that the status quo would remain. The National Parks would still have to be de-proclaimed by an Act of Parliament. The only exception is when one is dealing with "contract parks". If the landowner decides to withdraw from the contract then the Minister would be able to de-proclaim that portion of land as a national park.
The Chairperson read the motion of desirability and Members agreed to it. She then presented the Bill clause by clause to the Committee.
Clause 4 Insertion of Section 14 in Act 57 of 2003
Mr Greyling asked why only Chapter 1 and 2 and Section 48 applied to marine protected areas.
Mr Cowan replied that Clause 4 seeks to make cross-reference to the Marine Living Resources Act, 1998. This Act covers marine protected areas.
Mr Durr said that the Minister recently proclaimed marine protected areas in terms of subsidiary legislation. He asked if the Minister would have to re-proclaim the areas when the Bill becomes an Act. He also asked if the Bill would strengthen the status of such areas. He was of the opinion that the areas proclaimed as marine protected areas could easily be de-proclaimed. He said that the Minister of Environmental Affairs indicated to him that he would have to re-proclaim the areas in terms of the Bill. The areas mean nothing as marine protected areas if they could be de-proclaimed by ministerial decision.
Mr Cowan replied that the Minister would not have to re-proclaim the areas. Some areas would probably have to be re-proclaimed in terms of this Bill. The Marine Living Resources Act and the National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act were the primary means of managing marine resources.
Clause 18 Amendment of Section 48 of Act 57 of 2003
Mr Greyling asked if the presenters could assure the Committee that the integrity of marine protected areas would be protected pending the coming into effect of the EIA regulations. He wondered if it was possible to include a provision in the Bill to ensure that areas around marine protected areas would also be protected against mining activities pending the EIA regulations.
Mr Cowan replied that no new mining would be allowed within protected areas. Existing mining activities would be reviewed.
Mr Greyling was worried that new mining activities would be allowed around protected areas. A protected area does not exist outside the ecosystem which surrounds it. Mining activities outside protected areas impact on the whole integrity of protected areas.
Mr Mketeni said that Section 48(4) provides that the Minister should take into account the interest of local communities and environmental principles referred to in Section 2 of the National Environmental Management Act, 1998. Section 2 probably addresses the concerns of the Member.
Mr Durr said that DEAT acts for all Departments in relation to environmental issues. The DME is a gamekeeper turned poacher. The DME is entitled to advance its own interests but the DEAT should be an objective adjudicator on whether a particular piece of land should be damaged.
Mrs J Chalmers (ANC) said that in terms of Section 48 of the principal Act the Minister must, after consultation with the Minister of Minerals and Energy, review all mining activities in protected areas. She asked if there were any time frames for this. In the Richtersveld, mining activities have been allowed to continue for ages resulting in enormous damage to the environment. She asked if the mining operations could be stopped if they are perceived to be causing great damage to the environment.
Mr Cowan replied that that no timeframes have been set yet. If the Minister withdraws mining rights compensation would have to be paid to the holder of the right.
Mr Mokoena asked who should be the neutral arbiter with regard to EIA issues. The DME has a vested interest in mining activities. The DEAT has no vested interests and is therefore in a better place to monitor the EIA. He suggested that the Minister should raise this issue at Cabinet level or that there should be a cluster meeting on this.
Mr Durr had difficulties in understanding the Bill. He asked how the municipal and provincial reserves fit into the Bill. It is also important to know how the concept of biosphere reserves fit into the Bill.
Mr Mketeni said the principal Act covers all protected areas in the provinces. The Bill is a Section 75 Bill. It covers provincial reserves but provinces have a mandate to enact legislation covering their own protected areas. However, such legislation should be aligned with national legislation.
Mrs Chalmers indicated that the memorandum to the Bill provides that "the matters dealt with in this Bill fall within the competence of the national government and will not, as such affect provinces. However, provincial and local governments will have to take into account the existence of national parks and marine protected areas when developing a particular area". The existence of one consolidated protected areas Act obviates the necessity of provinces to legislate for protected areas in their areas.
Mr Durr said that the question is whether the intention is to give less status to provincial parks. The biosphere reserves have not worked. It is difficult to see how the Bill would improve the status of biosphere reserves.
Mr D Olifant (ANC) was concerned that Mr Durr was trying to slip the issue of biosphere reserves into the Bill. The biosphere reserves are not working because there is a political agenda and exclusivity behind them. The issue should be debated in another forum.
The Chairperson agreed that the debate on biosphere reserves should not continue in the meeting.
Mr Durr was angry that Mr Oliphant 'appointed himself to regulate my questions and answers during the meeting'. He said that if he wanted advice on travelling matters he would consult Mr Olifant.
The Chairperson asked Mr Durr to confine himself to the purpose of the meeting. There would always be disagreements on issues.
Mr Greyling asked if the Protected Areas Act contains reference to buffer zones.
Mr Cowan replied that buffer zones are referred to in Section 28(2) of the Act.
Mr Mketeni was worried that the discussion was turning to the main Act and not the Bill.
The Chairperson asked if Mr Greyling's concerns could not be addressed at a later stage and not during discussion on the Bill.
Mr Greyling replied that he wanted to ensure that areas around protected areas were also protected.
Mr Smuts advised Members not to introduce new provisions as they might end up enacting provisions that are in conflict with each other. The Department should be given an opportunity to come back and address issues like the protection of areas surrounding protected areas and the question of biosphere reserves.
Mr Greyling asked if the debate would take place before the finalisation of the Bill.
The Chairperson said that the debate should take place after the Bill has been passed.
Mr Olifant appealed to Members to process the Bill. The issue of biosphere reserves is extremely important and requires a broader discussion.
Mr Greyling said that if nothing was said about the protection of buffer zones in the Bill then such zones would not be protected. It is pointless to have protected areas if the integrity of areas surrounding them would not be protected.
Mr Cowan said that the primary legislation that deals with marine protected areas was the Marine Living Resources Act. The protection of buffer zones around marine protected areas should be dealt with by an amendment of the relevant Act.
Mr Smuts said that Section 28(2) (c) of the Protected Areas Act covered Mr Greyling's concerns. However, the Department should still look at the concern and see if it is adequately addressed.
The Committee adopted the Bill with amendments.
The Chairperson informed Members that the Bill would be debated in the House on 14 September. She said that she had initially felt that there was no need for a debate on the Bill. Given the nature of the debate during the meeting she had a sense that some Members might possibly want to debate the Bill.
Mr G Morgan (DA) said that there was no need for a debate provided that outstanding issues would be addressed in the near future.
Mr Greyling also felt that there was no need for a debate. There is a need to review the Marine Living Resources Act to ensure that buffer zones are protected.
There was consensus that there was no need to debate the Bill.
The meeting was adjourned.
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