Presentation on Subdivision of Agricultural Land Repeal Bill & Discussion on National Water Bill

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Meeting report

AGRICULTURE, WATER AFFAIRS & FORESTRY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
1 June 1998
PRESENTATION BY THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE ON THE SUBDIVISION OF AGRICULTURAL LAND REPEAL BILL AND DISCUSSION ON NATIONAL WATER BILL


Summary:
The committee heard a briefing on the Subdivision of Agricultural Land Act Repeal Bill, after which the committee voted and passed the Bill. The key points of the briefing are detailed below. The National Water Bill was also discussed and would be voted on the following day.

Detailed Minutes:
Mr. Beresford, from the Department of Land Affairs, briefed the committee on the process that had taken place in the last few weeks. When the Bill was initially tabled before Parliament, concern was raised that the repeal of the Act would leave a void in regulating the division of agricultural land. The Minister of Land Affairs requested that the Departments of Agriculture and Land look into the issue and find a proposal. The principles, the Minister said, were vital as there should be no new process. Also there should be transparency and clear guidelines had to exist.

Mr. Beresford went on to say that the problem of a void in dealing with subdivisions was incorrect, as there were Provincial procedures in place that had been rolled back when the original act had come into being. These procedures could then be re-extended. In the process the decision-making power would shift from National to Provincial level and the decision would become a planning rather than an agricultural decision.

The Minister's approach to the issue was that any process should take the principles contained in the Development Facilitation Act into account. Further, MECs would be requested to deal with issues of urban sprawl directly. It was noted that the development and planning commission was preparing a green paper and had been asked to directly take this issue into account.

Dr. Schoeman (NP) stated that the Minister making requests to the MEC made him uneasy, as each Province could make the decision as to whether to reinstate the previous provisions. Mr. Beresford replied that constitutionally the function was a provincial one. In addition, the concerns raised in the last meeting around a void in regulating subdivision had been very localised, around Cape Town, Nelspruit and Durban. The Western Cape had already reinstated the old provisions, and Kwazulu Natal had implemented the Development Facilitation Act.

Dr. Schoeman noted that the principles from the Minister were not the same as the report into the matter by the task team and queried what had been left out.

Mr. Beresford stated that the Minister of Land Affairs was not happy with the definition of Prime Agricultural Land as the issues of what was prime land went beyond productive potential to include cultural and social values. There were therefore changes made to accommodate the Ministers concern. The Department of Agriculture was in full support of the Ministers concerns.

The Chairperson, Ms Love, noted that her understanding of the issue was that the definition of Prime Agricultural Land was not absolute and static. The definition which the report had used was more static.

Ms. Nduli, the chairperson of the task team, agreed that the reports definition had been too narrow.

Mr. Van Zyl (NP) commented that when the Act was repealed, nothing was in its place immediately. The Chairperson stated that ordinances were in place, they would just have to be reinstated. Mr. Beresford added that there were elaborate principles in the DFA and statutory guidelines, which could be promulgated.

The Bill was passed by the committee by consensus.

The Committee returned to the National Water Bill. The committee was in a stage of finalising amendments to the Bill. Discussion on the Bill went on till 19h00. The Chairperson stated that the Bill would then be voted on the next morning.

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