Community Meeting Summary – Wednesday July 20th @ Alphen Community Hall

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Dear Parkscape Supporters and Attendees

Firstly, thank you to all the people who braved the weather to attend our meeting.  It was gratifying to see how many people feel so strongly about Lower Tokai Forest.  This post is merely a report on last night’s meeting and not minutes of the meeting.  Minutes will follow as soon as possible.  Secondly, we would like to apologise for the problems experienced with the sound.  We were assured that a PA system was not necessary in the hall but with the noise of the rain on the roof, it was extremely difficult to hear some of what was being said.  This will be addressed for future meetings.

The meeting commenced with a talk by Andre van Schalkwyk, who is the head of Table Mountain Watch (a volunteer organisation).  He is an ordinary user of the mountain, whose love of the mountain and desire for safety on it, led him to form this organisation. He endeavoured to inform the audience of ways to maximise one’s safety when using TMNP areas and stressed that it was up to the community to drive the issue of safety.  We need to be more aware of our surroundings, to be “the eyes and ear” and to report issues of concern to Table Mountain Watch 0861 106 417 or @tablemountainwatch on Twitter.

Nicky Schmidt then did a comprehensive presentation on the history of TMNP and how it relates to Lower Tokai Forest. A copy of the presentation will be posted below for anyone who missed the meeting or would like to peruse the points again

Some of the attendees appeared to be disappointed that this was not a meeting to “save the trees”.  No one can, unfortunately, provide reassurance that the remaining trees will be preserved.  Mountains to Oceans (MTO) Forestry, as indicated in the presentation, are leaving the area both as a result of the forestry exit strategy in the Western Cape and because the bulk of their crop was lost in last year’s fires.  The only means we have to hold SANParks to the retention of the trees or new plantings is through the Tokai Cecilia Management Framework – and through the City.   What was proposed in the Management Framework and what appears to be happening indicates a deviation.  MTO will be felling any time between now and next year (seven years ahead of schedule), and the Management Framework doesn’t take that into account. New planting should have begun and that’s not happening. There should be a second tree stand near Soetvlei and that isn’t there. Friends of Tokai Park have indicated “no more pines” and the message that came out of the meeting last night was that the entire area should be given over to fynbos. From a biodiversity perspective this is commendable, but it does then mean that the Management Framework is dead – and without input from or consultation with the community – and that can’t happen.  The purpose of the meeting last night was to set on record that TMNP cannot do this.  They have to be held to account and they have to listen to the community and take the community’s wishes on board.  There has be a public participation process if the Management Framework is to be reviewed, as is indicated in the recently approved Management Plan for TMNP – it’s a legal requirement.  It is unfortunate that Alderman Purchase arrived late as she spoke most firmly to the matter, to the point of indicating that as things currently stand it appears that the City will be entering into legal dispute with SANParks over the management of the Park per se.  We also have the support from the Province as you may have gathered from the approach Mark Wiley took.

An extensive Q & A session followed.  There was a strong SANParks presence at the meeting as well as representatives of the City of Cape Town.  Minutes of the meeting will have more detail of questions asked and the various responses to them.  The botanists and conservationists were all given the opportunity to speak, but it was apparent that they must also be challenged.  Both the Constitution and the Buffer Zone Policy and the Protected Areas Act all indicate that public participation is not a nicety but a legal necessity.  The will of the public cannot be ignored.  We also now have it on record that SANParks WILL abide by the terms of the Tokai Cecilia Management Framework.

So the question now is – what next ??????

Take Action Now!

It is IMPERATIVE that affected and concerned Lower Tokai users write to Alderman Purchase: FelicityAnne.Purchase@capetown.gov.za and their local councillor.  It is also important to write to the press – a groundswell of community support is required to drive this and gathering that support is part of Parkscape’s mandate.  It is also imperative that immediately post elections Alderman Purchase and the Parkscape team meet with SANParks – irrespective of whether they want to meet with us or not.  That meeting will be to insist on community consultation and a public participation process as soon as the possible and before the trees are felled.  As we are engaging with MTO, we believe we can have some influence on the felling dates.

So please Parkscape supporters – get writing !!  We have to do this together.

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