Summary of a talk to the Hermanus Botanical Society by Anina Lee and Sheraine van Wyk
The Hermanus Botanical Society’s annual Soup-and-Sherry evening took place on Friday 20 July. Anina Lee, Whale Coast Communications Manager, and Sheraine van Wyk, WCC Environmental Education Manager, were the guest speakers. The topic was the sustainability of Fernkloof Nature Reserve in the face of threats to this iconic fynbos reserve, both natural and man-made. Awareness about sustainability is the theme of a project funded by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund.
The talk highlighted some of the activities of Whale Coast Conservation and how the Hermanus Botanical Society and WCC might work together to assist each other to achieve our common objectives of sustainability of the natural environment.
Anina Lee outlined some of the realities and the challenges facing Fernkloof and Sheraine van Wyk illustrated programmes that have been successful in involving the community, especially the youth, in sustainability awareness. Responsibility for the FNR
The Hermanus Botanical Society is the civil society custodian of FNR, but the responsibility of its management lies with the Overstrand Municipality (OSM) because it is a municipal nature reserve and should be managed in the same way it manages all municipal assets. However, the OSM budget for environmental management is less than 1% of its total budget, because it is constrained from spending more by the Constitution various Acts governing municipal spending. Who, then, should foot the bill? Memorandum of Understanding on environmental management
WCC has entered into discussion with the municipality to enter into an MoU to agree on what environmental work falls within its jurisdiction and how WCC can assist the OSM to do that work well. In return WCC wants the OSM to endorse our efforts to identify the government agencies that are obligated to do the environmental management work that falls outside of the municipal jurisdiction and to support our efforts to get these agencies to carry out that work in a coordinated way.
Inappropriate planning decisions also impact directly on the reserve.
For example, we have the proposed bypass or “scenic” road that is planned to traverse a long section of the southern boundary of the Fernkloof Nature Reserve which will necessitate the de-proclamation of the affected sections of the reserve; the affected area of the reserve is mainly ‘Overberg Sandstone Fynbos’ declared as a Critically Endangered ‘Threatened Ecosystem’.
Further growth in residential development and shopping malls is old-fashioned, short-sighted and wrong. It is poor use of land and water and bad for local business. Water
GCC predicts 20% less rainfall in the Western Cape; this translates into 40% less run-off into rivers, dams and groundwater.
Hermanus is already abstracting 50% of its water from ground-water. No-one knows exactly how much water there is and what the long-term effect will be on the environment. There are monitoring boreholes in place, but once adverse effects are noted it’s too late to stop extracting. Are we then going to deny the water to the burgeoning population that the OSM has agreed to provide for by building infrastructure? Aliens
Over many years, from the time that Doc Williams and others recognised the alien threat to fynbos, the Botanical Society has done a sterling job eradicating them in the reserve. This is an on-going battle and requires constant vigilance. We cannot afford to let aliens take over more fynbos habitat. Lack of understanding of the real value of FNR
The greatest threat to FNR is lack of information among decision-makers of the real value of the Mountain fynbos found in the FNR and the mountains cradling Hermanus. The Ecosystem Services provided by fynbos are seldom recognised and certainly not given a monetary value when land use decisions are taken. What exactly is the monetary value?
In a study of the value of mountain fynbos ecosystems services, Higgens et.al. concluded that “The total mountain fynbos ecosystem is estimated to be worth up to R300 million p.a. Water production and genetic storage are the most valuable.”
So what is Fernkloof Nature Reserve actually worth in terms of rands and cents to the local economy? What is the value it provides in terms of water catchment, water purification, flood prevention, clean air, etc.? How much does FNR contribute to visitor/tourism spend in Hermanus? We need to find out so that a proper value can be placed on it when decisions are made affecting it.
What is needed
We urgently need a resource economic valuation of the contribution of FNR to the Hermanus economy. Such a study has been made for just the small Kogelberg area of the coastline. It was estimated that the recreational expenditure by land‐based visitors attributable to the Kogelberg coast was in the range of R191 to R235 million per annum. What, then, is that value of Fernkloof to Hermanus?
But most importantly we need to become activists and fight for freedom, fynbos and Fernkloof.