Whale Coast Conservation celebrated its 10th birthday AGM on Wednesday 17 October in the Green House. It was the first function to be held in our new premises and by all accounts it was a resounding success.
The days leading up to the event were furiously busy. The renovation of the building took on new urgency with Jan scurrying around seeking and destroying leaks in the roof every time the rain changed direction and yet another drip or rivulet down the walls appeared. Floors were painted at odd times when no-one was there to walk on the fresh paint and waterless toilets were made habitable. Rob and Sue were seen painting the exterior walls on Sunday morning, which caused the Schuurman family’s lunch outing to Dassiesfontein to be destroyed by guilt!
The auditorium floor was screeded and carpeted, audio-visual equipment installed, chairs carried in and de-nuded of plastic by the whole extended Schuurman family. Estelle tackled the kitchen and reception area with fierce determination and imposed order on seemingly intractable chaos. Catering equipment, crockery and cutlery was tracked down over the mountain, table cloths sewn and bleak and reeky toilets were made ‘homey’ with furnishings and toiletries.
The exhibition area was transformed from a dumping ground into a beautifully light place of interesting things.
Invitations were sent out to members and others, but only a trickle of replies came back, mostly apologies. By Monday morning attendance of fewer than a dozen were confirmed. How embarrassing to ask a guest speaker to talk to so few. It was time to panic. Telephone wires started humming and members and non-members invited. Not much arm twisting was required, though. The goodwill towards WCC and enthusiasm for the work it is doing was apparent. And by 17h30 on Wednesday they all turned up – more than we ever expected. Additional chairs had to be hurriedly un-stacked to accommodate the 70-odd audience.
Unfortunately Chairman Mike Bayer had to tender apologies just before the meeting due to a family crisis, but Duncan Heard stepped up to present the Chairman’s Report. The Financial Report was, for the first time, a good news story, thanks to the NLDTF grant, the continued support of our other donors and the efforts of our auditor, Selwyn Schemel. We are very grateful, especially to the Raimondo family, for the trust shown in our work. The business of the meeting was dispatched swiftly, with the Board, Office Bearers and Auditor remaining unchanged.
During question time some searching questions were posed which Rob handled with his usual thorough understanding of the issues.
Frank Raimondo asked about the crisis in estuary management. Rob explained the nature of the legislation which involves many different government departments with none of them, including the municipality, having overall management jurisdiction. It is up to civil society to perform the coordination role, but no provision is made for any compensation for this considerable responsibility which WCC has been carrying to a large extent.
Frank then asked whether WCC received any funding from the municipality and whether we were paid for our efforts in trying to manage the Overstrand estuaries and the environmental education component of the Blue Flag Beach requirements. Rob explained that the answer to the former is ‘no’ and, regarding the latter, WCC is now regarded as a service provider and will need to tender and quote for the work that has already commenced.
Louis van Heerden suggested that WCC takes over the management of the penguin colony at Stony Point as an income stream. He also asked what the WCC stance was on the proposed by-pass road through the Fernkloof Nature Reserve. The answer was that WCC will vigorously oppose the construction of the road in terms of government’s own environmental legislation and policy guidelines for sustainable development.
The guest speaker for the evening was Frank Julie whose theme was the sustainable NGO. A successful organisation is all about integrity, hard work and building relationships, not least of which are relationships with potential donors who would be proud to be associated with our organisation.
Guests were treated to Estelle’s delicious soup and bread after the meeting and many stayed to chat and look at the sustainable energy exhibits that made up the core of the road-shows that were taken to all the schools in the Overstrand.
Consensus was that the AGM was fitting of an organisation that has reached a decade of diligently and successfully promoting environmental sustainability in the Overberg.