The Committee was briefed by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism on the draft National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Amendment Bill (B67 – 2008). The purpose of the Bill was to amend the National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act. It was firstly to provide for a comprehensive list in the schedule of national parks. It would provide for the assignment of national parks, special nature reserves and world heritage sites to South African National Parks (SANParks). It would then make provision for flight corridors and permission to fly over national parks, special nature reserves and world heritage sites, and for the training and testing of aircraft. Finally it made provision, if this was necessary, for winding up and dissolution of SANParks. Consequential amendments were being made also to address areas (such as management of traffic by SANParks within the parks) that had been omitted from the Act, and to update the Schedules. The Department gave a detailed description of each clause, explaining how and why it was amending the Act. Members raised questions around degraded parks, whether the Bill was addressing indigenous forest management, the declaration of areas, the impact of the Bill on St Lucia Wetlands and the current position with Cape Nature. Further questions were raised on the interplay between provincial and national management authorities, the reasons for the amendments concerning the flight zones in parks ,as well as military training operations being conducted (specifically aircraft testing). In general Members expressed satisfaction with the Bill.
National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Amendment Bill (B68 – 2008) (the Bill): Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) Briefing
Ms Skumsa Mancotywa (Director: Protected Areas Planning and Development – DEAT) outlined that the purpose of the Bill was to amend the National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act. It was firstly to provide for a comprehensive list in the schedule of national parks. It would provide for the assignment of national parks, special nature reserves and world heritage sites to South African National Parks (SANParks). It would then make provision for flight corridors and permission to fly over national parks, special nature reserves and world heritage sites, and for the training and testing of aircraft. Finally it made provision, if this was necessary, for winding up and dissolution of SANParks.
Ms Mancotywa then tabled a description of the clauses in the Bill, explaining how, and why each was to amend the principal Act. Clause 1 dealt with the declaration of national parks, and sought to finally delete the remaining schedule of the National Parks Act of 1976, and transfer those provisions to the principal Act. Provision was now being made for the Minister to update the schedule as necessary.
Clause 2 dealt with declaration of areas as protected zones to ensure sustainable development. Currently the declarations were to lapse after three years from the date of declaration. The Bill now sought to extend that time period, by agreement with all the parties concerned.
Clause 3 was substituting Section 38 of the principal Act. Currently the Minister “must” assign management of a special nature reserve to a suitable person, organisation or organ of State. The amendment was making this discretionary, substituting the words “may assign” so that the Department would be allowed to manage a nature reserve. It was also limiting assignment of national parks to SANParks, because of the challenges experienced with provincial conservation agencies.
Clause 4, amending Section 47, dealt with use of aircraft in a nature reserve, national park or world heritage site. Protected areas currently included air space above them to a level of 2 500 feet, to protect biodiversity and the environment. Now the Bill was allowing for management authority to set conditions or concessions, and to allow for flight corridors.
Clause 5, amending Section 54, dealing with the existence of SANParks, made provision that in the event of winding up or dissolution of SANParks, there must be a transfer of remaining assets, after settlement of all liabilities, to the State or other institution with similar objects to SANParks. This was to fill the lacuna that there was nowhere a provision for this to happen, and was necessary to comply with the conditions around tax exemption under the Income Tax Act.
Clause 6 amended Section 55, expanding the functions of SANParks. The Act currently did not empower SANParks to manage all existing and future national parks and other reserves or protected areas. The Minister was now also being permitted to assign the management of world heritage sites. SANParks were further being permitted to participate in other initiatives, to increase their exposure, and were being allowed to make and enforce traffic rules within all areas under their control. This had previously been the case, but the provision had been repealed by mistake and not transferred into the existing Act.
Clause 7 dealt with financial matters and allowed SANParks to retain money collected by way of fines for any offences under the Act, not only those committed within the Parks’ boundaries.
Clause 8 was a purely consequential amendment that substituted the Schedules, including a declaration of all national parks and their description.
Ms J Chalmers (ANC) asked whether the proposed amendment to section 38 allowed South African National Parks (SANParks) to take over a provincial park if it was degraded. If so, she requested what the criteria would be. .
Ms Mancotywa replied that the existing Act already allowed the Minister to take over parks in a state of disrepair, but that now the Amendment Bill was adding the criteria for this. She added that that this Bill gave additional powers to SANParks to manage other heritage sites, not just parks, and effectively it expanded SANParks’ mandate. She added that hopefully later improvements to the Bill would allow for the management of State forests as well.
Mr G Morgan (DA) asked for expansion on the problems faced by flying over national parks, and he asked why there was need at all for pilots to train over national parks. Furthermore, he asked whether pressure to allow flight through parks came from the tourism sector.
Dr Geoffrey Cowan, Deputy Director, DEAT, replied that pressure came more from the civil aviation industry as it was hoping to allow private individuals to fly wherever they wanted to. He added that in Addo Elephant National Park there was provision to allow flight corridors across the park to cater specifically for farmers owning properties at opposite ends of the park. Dr Cowan stated that the training issue stemmed from De Hoop, where the military had bought the land and used it for missile testing, then pilot training, subsequently allowing it to be included in the park as long as the military retained testing rights. The military was worried about losing testing rights because De Hoop was now considered part of the Cape Floral Kingdom.
Ms R Ndzanga (ANC) asked why it appeared that provinces were struggling to manage parks. She also asked if poor communities around parks were in any way being empowered. She asked for clarity on the amendments to Section 54, (clause 5), which allowed for the dissolution of SANParks, asking whether the Department actually anticipated the dissolution of SANParks. Ms Ndzanga asked how the Department had managed in the past if the only the proposed amendment to Section 38 allowed the DEAT to manage nature reserves.
Ms Mancotywa replied that the issue was that the majority of the provinces’ budget went to health and social development spending, and there was a big debate over the Minister assigning adequate funding. She added that in terms of policy and legislation the Department was covered with regard to empowerment, but that from a practical point of view this was proving difficult to achieve. One positive point was the People and Parks Programme. There was an issue with the provinces not implementing the empowerment effectively. She added that the reference to Special Protected Areas was referring specifically to the case of Prince Edward Island.
Mr I Cachalia (ANC) stated that indigenous forest management was shifted from the Department of Forestry and Water Affairs to the DEAT, and he asked if the Act and the Bill would now apply to this.
Dr Cohen replied that the DEAT was discussing expanding SANParks’ mandate to cover this.
The Chairperson asked the DEAT to clarify the issue of the lapsing of a declaration of an area as protected under the proposed Section 28.
Adv Vicky Beukes, Deputy Director: Litigation and Law Reform, DEAT, replied that SANParks had applied to become a public benefit organisation. This had implications in relation to income tax liabilities. Therefore, in line with the Income Tax Act, this provision was necessary to allow for a successor in title. This was so that the entity, should it become a private entity, would not retain the tax exemption status but pass it to the successor in title.
Mr D Maluleke (ANC) asked what impact the bill would have on the current situation of the St Lucia Wetlands.
Dr Cohen replied that it did not directly affect the situation at St Lucia, but that the real issue was that of microlight pilots wanting to land on the beach, a position on which the Park management would not move.
Ms Mancotywa stated that there was a challenge in managing World Heritage Sites. There was provision for the Minister to assign management to an authority. However the question was whether it was feasible to have eight separate management authorities, one for each site. A feasibility study was being undertaken to evaluate the issue. DEAT had proposed that SANParks be the interim manager of the Cape Floral Region, but this was rejected by both concerned provinces, so the Department was awaiting an alternate proposal. The issue of the management of the Vredefort Dome was settled by the Minister taking over, as both premiers could not reach a suitable agreement.
Ms Chalmers asked, in a situation where SANParks were replacing Cape Nature, what happened to the revenue generated in the park. She added that this would become a conflict between provincial and national levels.
Ms Mancotywa replied that DEAT had embarked on a process of rationalisation for the replacement of Cape Nature with SANParks. SANParks was supporting the dissolution of Cape Nature; but the Western Cape government and Cape Nature were opposed to this. The Minister and the MEC had agreed that SANParks should take over; a memorandum had been submitted to Cabinet and the Provincial legislature. This memorandum had been sent back with a request for greater clarity on the funding aspect. Currently no decision had been made.
Dr Cohen added that there was a tendency to view parks as potential “milk cows”. However, when looking at the financial statements, it became apparent that this was not the case and that most parks ran at a loss. The assumption was that they would become profitable in the future. In reality, Kruger and Tsitsikamma were the only profitable parks and they in turn subsidised the less financially successful parks. Should Baviaanskloof be handed over to national management, it would have to inject large amounts of funding.
Ms Mancotywa added that the issue of revenue sharing reminded her of the situation with the Free State asking that funds generated from KwaKwa Nature Reserve and Golden Gate National Park remain within the province. She stated that it would not be fair, as the funds were needed to subsidise less profitable parks. Ms Mancotywa also told the Committee that there was a problem with the Department of Minerals and Energy concerning the issuing of permits prospecting in World Heritage Sites.
The Chairperson stated that on a visit to the Amazon he was suitably impressed by the operation of Petrobras in mining the area with as little impact as possible, utilising the expertise of geologists, archaeologist, ecologists and the input from the local communities. He suggested that maybe a comprehensive environmentally responsible way of mining mineral resources could be done.
The meeting was adjourned.
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