A COMPREHENSIVE WIN FOR THE COMMUNITY

Judgement in the matter of Parkscape vs SANParks and MTO Forestry was handed down by Judge Patrick Gamble this morning at the Cape Town High Court.  Parkscape has achieved a comprehensive win, with costs.

We are delighted with the outcome, and not just because we’ve been able to uphold the needs and wants of the community of over two and a half thousand people that we represent. We are also greatly encouraged that this judgement shows, once again, that South Africa’s legal system continues to uphold justice and just administrative action, particularly at this time when government and its agencies believe they are a law unto themselves.

This outright win ensures that SANParks, who have, to date, ignored Parkscape’s attempts to constructively engage, and despite our locus standi, will now be legally obliged to engage with us.

We sought, and have won, the right to a full and proper Public Participation Process regarding the nature and use of Tokai Park, or Tokai Forest as it is more commonly known by users.  SANParks and MTO Forestry are interdicted and restrained from further felling in the Dennendal plantation of Tokai until valid and lawful decisions pertaining to the matter have been taken.

We look forward to engaging with SANParks and other organisations in determining an outcome for Tokai Park that meets the needs of all in the broader community.

The Parkscape vision, going forward, includes shaded recreation, biodiversity, safety, social upliftment, culture, heritage, education and meeting the needs of the community’s rights to health and well-being.  It is a vision that we believe is inclusive and balanced.  With Judge Gamble’s ruling today, we look forward to setting out to make this vision a reality.

We thank all in the community for their ongoing support and generosity.  This has been a team effort from the beginning and the Parkscape team is humbled at being part of such a wonderful and inclusive community.

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Seeking Balance in Lower Tokai

Image copyright : Shelly Chadburn-Barron

 

Meeting the needs of people and conservation

Prof Eugene Moll & Nicky Schmidt

There has been a determined, and one might say, deliberate attempt on the part of certain biodiversity lovers and environmentalists to obfuscate the reality of Lower Tokai. Led by Dr Tony Rebelo, Friends of Tokai Park, a small group active in Lower Tokai for several years, have adopted a single-minded approach – Cape Flats Sand Fynbos above all else.  It’s a noble approach but forgets that for over 60 years users from across greater Cape Town have enjoyed the area for shaded recreation.  So critical is Lower Tokai for shaded recreation that in 2006 interest groups and affected users entered into such intense negotiation with SANParks, manager of the area, that it led to the formation of a mayoral task team to oversee the matter.  The outcome of negotiations – which lasted well over two years – was a document entitled the Tokai Cecilia Management Framework, which, while arguing for conservation also accepted the critical need for shaded recreation – and presented a balanced vision of the future.  The vision was to be created on the basis of “transition areas” – cyclical felling and planting of exotic shade trees, ensuring there would always be large tracts of shade, together with biodiversity conservation in order to ensure that fynbos seedbanks were preserved.  The fires of March 2015 and an accelerated felling programme on the part of MTO Forestry have resulted in an outcome in which little or no shade will be provided in any kind of immediate future, if ever, given that – as indicated by Friends of Tokai Park – the entire area is to be given over to fynbos.  Two points should be made – one is that of administrative justice – any deviation from or change to the Management Framework, should be done in consultation with the public as it was done in 2006 and as per the National Environmental Management Act.  The second is that the type of fynbos that currently grows in Lower Tokai is dense, head height and presents a grave safety risk – as has already been witnessed by the brutal murder of 16-year old Franziska Blöchliger in March this year.

Friends of Tokai Park have consistently vilified the approach made by Parkscape, a community organisation which represents over 2500 people from across the Cape Peninsula.  Yet the Parkscape approach is one that seeks to meet the needs of both biodiversity conservation and the needs of people.  In an urban environment one cannot afford to separate the two.

While recreating a wilderness environment to the urban edge is commendable at multiple levels it cannot be done without considerable challenges and risks.  To encourage the natural regeneration of fynbos species, extremely hot fires are required (such as were witnessed in 2015). These are not the kind of fires the City Fire Department is likely to allow in the midst of suburbia.  There are homes on both sides of the remaining strip of plantation in Lower Tokai, with paths/”firebreaks” of between only 7 – 10 meters between Park vegetation and private properties. It goes without saying that the dangers posed by hot fires – which need, in order to be effective, to be done on hot days with high winds – are considerable.  To allow them would be an act of irresponsibility which could endanger property, health and lives.  Yet, without these hot fires, ecologically appropriate of natural fynbos, regeneration cannot occur.  To resort to planting and seed scattering, as has been done in the “restored” area of Lower Tokai, takes a considerable amount of money.

Moreover, the success of restoration in Lower Tokai is by no means assured, particularly given the changed nature of the environment and soil conditions.  What existed 130 plus years ago and prior to farming and plantations, no longer exists given the encroachment of the city. Observations made by biodiversity experts are littered with “if”, “perhaps”, “we hope” and “we’ll have to wait and see”.  In other words, there is no certainty that this experiment will be successful – because yes, the fuss over Lower Tokai goes around a large scale botanical experiment, driven by a small group to the cost of many – including the elderly, disabled, disadvantaged and young – who use Lower Tokai on a daily basis for shaded recreation.

The irony is that the presently shaded are of Lower Tokai, at only 22ha, presents considerable public good benefit – and, more critically, it is not the only place in which Cape Flats Sand Fynbos occurs.  The 1445ha Blaauwberg conservancy, which includes shell middens dating back 15 000 years, presents a far larger area for conservation and with considerably less, if any, impact on an urban edge.

For some reason the Rebelo’s Friends of Tokai Park would have the public believe that Lower Tokai is a “life and death” situation.  However, if it was not “life and death” in 2006, it’s unlikely to be “life and death” ten years on. Immediate felling of the remaining section of the plantation is not critical – any seedbanks that exist in the substantially changed soil conditions have remained intact for over 130 years and have, ironically, been protected by the existence of plantations when they might have been eradicated by property development. The only real driver to accelerated felling is the commercial interest of MTO Forestry. (It should be noted, that felling commenced in Lower Tokai with less than 24 hours notification to residents in the immediate area and attempts were repeatedly made to continue felling through the night despite contravention of City bylaws.)

Friends of Tokai Park has been vociferous in insisting that it is right and Parkscape is wrong.  The matter, however, is not about right and wrong. It is not either/or.  It is about meeting the needs of two groups that are not nearly as diverse as the Friends of Tokai would have the public believe.  The vast majority of Parkscape member supporters understand the significance of conservation and support it – they do, however, also understand the human need. An unnecessary amount of bad faith and ill feeling has been fostered by FOTP over Lower Tokai.  And it has been accompanied by an unwillingness to engage in any kind of meaningful or constructive way.  Unlike FOTP, Parkscape does not see itself as being on the “other side of the fence”.  It sees itself as being on the same side of the fence, but with broader views and opinions that seek a balanced win-win outcome for all.  Unfortunately, it appears that the concept of balance is anathema to the Friends.

It is worth pointing that Parkscape is not driven to “save the pines”.  The Parkscape focus has, first and foremost, been driven by safety in the Lower Tokai buffer zone, followed by people needs in an area that has been long been enjoyed by local communities.  There has never been any talk of “saving pines” on the part of Parkscape. The pines are a crop and were always to be harvested. Biodiversity lovers should take a good look at the vision the Parkscape proposes for Lower Tokai to confirm this.  The Tokai Park page of the Parkscape website is quite clear in its vision. They will also find that the vision contains reference to a balance between conservation and shaded recreation (and makes no mention of plantations or pines).  It also encompasses culture and heritage, community building and social upliftment.  It is a position that has been supported, via Parkscape petitions, by well over 3000 people.

Despite this, FOTP appear to believe that the Parkscape vision provides for a pristine park like Green Point Park or Wynberg Park or Kirstenbosch.  This couldn’t be further from the truth. The vision is drawn from the existing landscape and what is required in terms of both biodiversity and people needs. Furthermore, it is augmented by research of highly successful national urban parks, such as Presidio in San Francisco, Rouge National Urban Park in Toronto, Stanley Park in Vancouver, Parc de Colserolla in Barcelona – parks where biodiversity considerations go hand in hand with refuge for urban dwellers.  This is what Table Mountain National Park, including Lower Tokai, was always meant to be – a balance between environment and people, culture and heritage.  Table Mountain National Park was formed on the basis of being a “Park for All Forever”, not a Park for Biodiversity to the Exclusion of All Else.

Save

Save

Save

PARKSCAPE SEEKS LEGAL RELIEF

         

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Tuesday 30 August 2016 logging teams moved into Tokai Forest with military precision and in a manner that was arguably an act of bad faith. Residents living adjacent to the plantation were only informed the night before, while no one else in the community was aware that felling would begin, or that it would be conducted on a 24/7 basis. This hasty felling indicates a deviation from the Tokai Cecilia Management Framework negotiated in 2006 by affected stakeholders, SANParks and the City. It is somewhat ironic that Gavin Bell, Area Manager TMNP South, stated at a Parkscape community meeting in July 2016 that TMNP would indeed adhere to the Framework. Adherence will not be possible if the logging continues and if the botanical vision for an area of all-fynbos proceeds.

Following concerted attempts to engage with SANParks, MTO and their legal team, Parkscape chose to confront the logging operation and deviation from the Management Framework head-on. Together with our legal team, Parkscape has, through concerted efforts, forced SANParks and MTO to cease felling from the Dennendal Avenue West area (i.e. all forested areas on the east side of Orpen Road/Spaanschemacht Road) – but only for one week.

While felling will stop in the Dennendal section for one week as of 31 August 2016, it will, however, continue in the sections opposite (i.e. on the west side of Orpen Road/Spaanschemacht Road). This means that Tokai will be losing pines, which we accept are a commercial crop, at a rate of over 100 per hour, day and night.

Should we win the interdict, the need will be to ensure that a proper and procedurally fair public participation process is embarked on – and completed – before the pines are felled, so that we still can enjoy and use our communal space as agreed to in the Tokai Cecilia Management Framework.

We expect to be in court on Friday, 9 September 2016, represented by Junior and Senior Counsel, and our attorney. Should we win, the process will continue further and Parkscape will need to find additional funds to pay our legal team. We need to be able to show that we have funds to pay the future costs associated with the legal case. Without this, what remains of the Lower Tokai plantation, in a deviation from the Management Framework, will come down in the second week of September.

Please urgently donate any funds to our Attorneys’ Trust account:
Account Holder: Slabbert, Venter, Yanoutsos Attorneys
Standard Bank, Fish Hoek
Bank Code: 036009
Acc Nr.: 072 128 542
Reference: Tokai Forest
Email proof of payment to: anton@svy.co.za

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save