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ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS AND TOURISM PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
14 November 2006
SA NATIONAL PARKS AND SA BOTANICAL GARDENS 2006 ANNUAL REPORTS: BRIEFINGS
Chairperson: Mr L Zita (ANC)
Documents handed out:
South African National Parks Annual Report 2006
Step handbook to thicket areas in Southern Africa (available at http://bgis.sanbi.org)
Presentation by South African Botanical Gardens Annual report 2006
Presentation by South African National Parks Annual report 2006
South African National Parks website
The SA National Biodiversity Institute and SA National Parks presented their 2006 Annual Reports. Both listed progress, achievements and challenges.
The discussion mainly centered on biodiversity, global warming, increasing black visitors and children to the botanical gardens, the effect of land claims on the National Parks and plans to increase black visitors to the parks.
Presentation by South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI)
Ms K Maze (Chief Director: Bioregional Programmes and Policy) presented an overview of the local achievements with regard to Biodiversity and the improvement of black visitors to the gardens as well as the annual report highlights.
The key achievements for the 2005/6 year were discussed with regard to biodiversity, grasslands established, research and upgrading of facilities, the greening of South Africa and wetland restoration as well as the introduction of a South African vegetation map.
SANBI’s vision and focus was discussed with regard to access to information and rapid growth. The restructuring programmes were discussed. Those mentioned were the core areas, sustainable and conservation development, the network approach, animals and plants and research into policy advice as well as the status of biodiversity.
The botanical gardens in all the provinces would be approached in a different way especially with regard to working in the economic sectors. The core functions would be a priority and capital developments would be a key area.
The Free State gardens were boosted in that a biodiversity center was developed bringing on board NGOs, government partners and others. A research facility was also housed at the gardens.
In Nieuwoudville, a garden has been developed that would specifically incorporate bulb species and the natural veld. Greening the nation in the rural areas was becoming a success.
The challenges that were faced were an attempt to increase the number of black visitors to the gardens and the land acquisition strategy to establish new botanical gardens. Retaining and attracting staff with the right skills as well as access to global resources were also challenges.
The Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) targets were achieved.
Ms M Driver (Deputy Director: Bioregional Policy and monitoring (SANBI)) discussed land use planning and decision making, the loss of natural habitat and the day to day decisions that influenced biodiversity.
A National Biodiversity assessment was needed as important areas had ecological functions and all the provinces needed to be on board. Help was also needed in the municipalities with regard to biodiversity areas and to streamline and strengthen the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process.
A handbook had been produced in conjunction with a map book and a three-day training programme on the thicket areas of the Eastern Cape. One–on-one support would be given in this regard to those being trained.
Ms P Sehoole (Director: Marketing and Communications (SANBI)) dealt with the marketing strategy and how the goals are to position and promote recreational and leisure areas within the gardens. The strategy involved retaining current users, while also increasing revenue. One of the strategies dealt with the positioning, unique selling points and the affordability of the gardens.
The challenges included identifying and managing all personnel and exhibitions. Transport to the Harold Porter and Bloemfontein Gardens was a conitniung challenge and the rural communities needed a reason to go to the gardens. Transport groups had to be lobbied to support the gardens and build up a working relationship with them.
The targets that SANBI wanted to achieve over the coming three years were that the brand be more visible and recognized, that there be a 30% increase in visitors to all the botanical gardens and that there would be an increase in income by 20%.
The target market would be internal as well as external with structured education using a wide range of tools. Road signage to certain parks would be implemented.
Another would be to target segments; this would include event management companies, the historically disadvantaged and various groups. Local heritage would also be taken into account as a drawing point. A bookings rate card would be introduced and the SANBI website would be revamped and updated. Cross-marketing strategies would be implemented and timetables for concerts would be arranged.
There would be a garden marketing plan developed around the local multi-purpose community centers and more information would be disseminated through the media and learning institutions. Newsworthy items had to be supplied to the media and indigenous learning and educational programmes developed.
Public awareness strategies would be implemented and this would include signage and branding, a brand audit and a 30% increase in footprint. Connections in the hospitality industry would be made to increase cross marketing. This would also include discount vouchers and advertising in in-flight magazines, international exhibitions, tours in the gardens as well as a marketing forum.
Mr M Swart (DA) enquired about the funding of the botanical gardens and mentioned that the concerts in the Kirstenbosch gardens seemed to be successful.
Ms R Nzanga (ANC) asked about current education programmes and how many black people were visiting the botanical gardens. Was the latter number increasing or decreasing? Which gardens were the most popular?
Ms J Chalmers (ANC) asked whether SANBI had launched any policy interventions in government departments. Where were the provincial offices located? Interventions had to be made at the primary school level to attract future scientists.
Mr A Mokoena (ANC) enquired whether research and development were integrated. He referred to the elitism and exclusivity of the botanical gardens and asked how they could be made more accessible. He mentioned that the less “artificial” development of botanical gardens was helpful as in the case of the Niewoutville development. There needed to be a more holistic approach with regard to zoos and botanical gardens.
Ms Maze replied that a booklet has been developed on indigenous knowledge. There were dedicated sections in the gardens incorporating traditional remedies so that the children would be able to relate to them. In the Eastern Cape there was a need for a botanical garden; however a suitably accessible site had not been found yet. In the Southern Cape area some of the gardens were municipal property and did not fall under the jurisdiction of SANBI.
The offices are currently located in Pretoria, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth and there are provincial nodes in the other areas. The capacity of SANBI is being addressed with regard to school learners and some are been bussed in from the Cape Flats to Kirstenbosch. The programme that is followed consists of a classroom session on the value of biodiversity and it is presented as a viable career path. Recent graduates are also given opportunities.
Ms Sehoole stated that the type of concerts that were held at the various gardens influenced who attended them. There were various ways in which the profiles of the gardens were being raised and this included hosting school plays in the gardens and more adequate signage leading to the gardens. Sharing information with universities and technikons as well as building relationships in the tourism industry was a key factor.
Collaborative marketing was being introduced to address the image of the botanical gardens as elitist and exclusive places to visit. There was also liaison between the gardens and the local townships. The role of traditional healers had been considered and included.
The Chair said greening of the country was an important aspect. He mentioned that proper profiling had to take place with regard to indigenous knowledge and that a helpful idea would be to have a conference around this issue. He mentioned the responsibility that South Africa has to the rest of the continent in this regard.
Mr M Sayedali-Shah (DA) asked about the impact of global warming on biodiversity. He also enquired about the conflicting biodiversity agendas of provincial and national government. Security concerns and their relationship to SA Tourism were raised.
Mr I Cachalia (ANC) enquired about the existence of career advice centers and training facilities.
Ms M Sekgobela (ANC) asked how frequently schools visited the gardens.
Mr S Rasmeni (ANC) asked if greening the township areas have been successful and why the BEE ratio was only 40%. How were they working with traditional healers?
Ms Maze replied that an effort has been made to gather traditional healers together at one time to assimilate the knowledge. The knowledge from the traditional healers had to be distilled into databases and textbooks and this was being done.
The greening of South Africa occurred in only a limited number of areas. Re-habilitation of mining towns was occurring in the Northern Cape and experts were being brought in. Every year the BEE progress had been revised and was on the increase year by year. Security had been stepped up in the Pretoria gardens and there was now a stronger security presence there. SANBI was leading the research on global warming and the change in biodiversity. South Africa would be the hardest hit in this regard because of the water shortage in the country. Research was being done as to which climatic regions would be able to maintain the climate and SA would have to adapt.
Ms Sehoole stated that relationships were being forged with SA Tourism and collaborative marketing was a target.
Ms Maze stated that employment opportunities for local communities were being targeted as well as children’s outreach and adult learning.
Presentation by SA National Parks (SANParks) on 2006 Annual Report
Dr D Mabunda (Chief Executive) stated that there were many developments and challenges throughout the year in land conservation and those developments that were proposed in the greater Limpopo area including infrastructure development.
Performance against objectives with regards to all areas was discussed. Those areas were: Conservation, Tourism, People and Conservation, Human Resources, Reputation, Corporate Governance and Finances.
In conservation, there was a 46% increase in the number of research projects that had been started. Tourism had increased to the parks and this included black visitors and day visitors. The grading had been improved in certain areas and a detailed plan had been made. A concession had been made to the private sector for them to ply their trade on sections of the Parks. Five star lodges had also been improved.
Grading of 40% of tourism facilities had been achieved and the occupancies had increased. The Wild Card sales had increased as well. Children and schools had been encouraged to visit the parks and cultural heritage and wildlife management had improved.
Biodiversity management challenges with regard to leadership in biodiversity and cultural heritage management existed. Tourism development challenges were discussed covering that of enhancing SANParks’ reputation and in the commercilisation sector. Challenges faced in the People and Conservation areas were discussed with regard to Cultural Heritage and encouraging kids in the parks along with their teachers and park-based education programmes which were largely reliant on external funding. Land restitution and post settlement support was discussed as a challenge in that the willingness to engage with the communities was key after the restitution process.
Human Resources challenges that were faced were that of efficiency levels in the staff and the need for strategic management. The recruiting, retaining and development of the most suitable staff members remained a challenge. Legal challenges that were faced were that of good corporate governance with regard to commercial contract management.
Targets in all areas were discussed systematically for the coming year.
Mr Cachalia questioned the outcome of the Kruger National Park restaurant management issue. He enquired about the land issues with regard to the Table Mountain fynbos and the public hearings surrounding that area.
Mr Swart commented that the cash handling system should be changed. He also asked about the ownership of a road in the Addo National Park and when it would be repaired.
Ms Sekgobela asked about training for black tour guides and operators.
Mr Rasmeni thanked the CEO for an honest presentation that also showed the challenges that were faced. He enquired about support for the tour operators and if their number was increasing.
Dr Mabunda said that land claims posed a challenge. The two main factors were the size of the claims and the management of those claims by the communities. A lifestyle management programme was being developed to combat the AIDS epidemic and to support staff. A new tender was issued for the Kruger Park restaurant and the contract would soon be awarded.
The National Parks were mainly self-funded but received income from sponsors and donors too. The road to Addo did not fall under the park’s jurisdiction. It was an access road built by the province. Tour guides came from the surrounding communities and were given extensive training in conservation.
The Chair stated that the land claims had to be dealt with expeditiously.
Dr Mabunda added that the parks aimed to provide cheaper accommodation to attract more people from lower income groups.
The meeting was adjourned.
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