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.

 

 

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Parkscape Golf Day 8 June 2017 – Registration Forms

Postnet Suite 25, Private Bag X26, Tokai, 7966. Email: info@parkscape.org.za

PARKSCAPE GOLF DAY – 08 JUNE 2017

REGISTRATION FORMS

FOURBALL @ R3200.00

Full Name Company Name Contact Number Email Official Handicap & Home Club
Team Name:

NOTE: Any golfer without an official handicap will be allowed a maximum handicap of 18

Please advise dietary requirements – halaal, vegetarian, kosher

 

SPECIAL OFFER: Should you wish to make multiple bookings we are offering: 2 Fourballs: R6200 and 3 Fourballs: R9000.

Please complete additional forms for multiple bookings.

Please note: Bookings are handled on a first come, first serve basis.

RSVP to events@parkscape.org.za by 25th March 2017.

Fourball reservations will only be confirmed once payment has been received.

Please send proof of payment by latest 31 March 2017 to Glenda at events@parkscape.org.za

PAYMENT:  Parkscape             Current Account No. 1137 993 928              NEDBANK CONSTANTIA

Reference: GD + your name or company name

 

HOLE SPONSORSHIP @ R3500.00 – Payment required by 31 March

Name & Company Name Contact Number Email Hole No # Preference

SPECIAL OFFER:  1 x 4 – Ball + hole sponsorship special @ R6500.00 – a saving of R200.00

 

PRIZE DONATION – we are also looking for team prizes i.e. four of the same item.

Prizes/sponsorship required by 31 March 2017.

 

Name & Company Name Contact Number Email Prizes (pls. specify)

www.parkscape.org.za

 

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Parkscape Golf Day – 8 June 2017

 

Parkscape, a registered non-profit organisation, is hosting a golf day on 8th June 2017 at the Westlake Golf Club at 10h00 with first tee-off at 11h23.  Funds will go towards the creation of a safe, community focused, biodiverse and shaded urban park in Lower Tokai.

You and/or your company are invited to support the Golf Day by participating, sponsoring prizes or sponsoring a hole.

Cost per fourball is R3200.00 with discounts on multiple fourballs. (2 Fourballs: R6200 and 3 Fourballs: R9000.)

This includes: –

  • A relaxing day on the golf course;
  • Registration with snacks and tea/coffee;
  • Halfway lunch and beverage;
  • After game food platters; and
  • PRIZES GALORE!

A maximum of 28 teams are invited to compete in this prestigious event.

We are offering marketing opportunities on Hole Sponsorship for R3 500.00.

Sponsors are welcome to put up banners at the holes and chat to our players. Any marketing material to be distributed to the golfers will be done at the Club House during registration.

We’re offering a discounted saving of R200.00 for a 4-Ball + Hole Sponsorship @ R6 500.00

For entries and to sponsor prizes (includes branding) please email Glenda on events@parkscape.org.za.

Registration forms available HERE

RSVP by 25th March  –   Payment and sponsorship/prizes by 31st March

Caddies and Golf Carts – players to contact Emelia on membership@westlakegolfclubco.za or 021 7882020 to arrange for own account.

For more information about Parkscape please visit the website www.parkscape.org.za/TokaiPark

 

www.parkscape.org.za

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Wild Fires in the Western Cape

Wild fires in the Western Cape – the authorities should take full responsibility!
By Prof. Eugene Moll

Pointing fingers at arsonists misses a very big part of the wild-fire picture. The people who are really to blame for the damage that the recent wild-fires have caused are the decision and policy makers – at national level (i.e. DAFF, DEA, SANParks), in provincial government (e.g. CapeNature, and the Environment and Planning Department), and the City of Cape Town (not so much the City Parks Department but more so the Spatial Planning and Urban Design people). Most of the people within these authorities are engineers, architects and planners with little or no ecological expertise or appreciation. As a consequence, there is a lack of professional understanding of how development should be steered in environmentally sensitive areas (particularly fynbos).

Why do I say this? And on what basis can I make such grave accusations?

Quite simply, as a plant ecologist, I have witnessed in the last 20 years and more a massive change in the manner in which the local environment has been miss-treated by the authorities – not least with respect to fire control and containment by the so-called conservation agencies; SANParks, CapeNature and to a lesser extent the City (where at least there are one or two professionals qualified in managing fire and vegetation in an urban setting). Another example of this lack of understanding of plant ecology is that the authorities have allowed infrastructure development in environmentally sensitive and unsafe areas; and continue to do so (take the Phillipi Horticultural Area housing development debacle replacing productive farmland with housing). Yet another excellent example is where thatched roofed, wooden dwellings are built surrounded by fire prone vegetation (e.g. the Silvermine overnight facility on the Hoerikwaggo Trail that was razed in 2015). A final excellent example is the canalizing of the rivers on the Cape Flats resulting in a drying out the wetlands that previously not only “cleaned” the water but slowed it down, allowing vitally important ground-water re-charge.

The only explanation I have for such inept management is that the majority of modern Sapiens has completely lost touch with Nature. Most of us know that fynbos is a unique vegetation type, but many do not comprehend the fact that this enormously diverse region was moulded by fire over millennia – and that without fire we would not have the rich biodiversity we enjoy in the Cape Floristic Region today. Yet the “authorities” are obviously ignorant of these evolutionary drivers and treat development and management in a Eurocentric fashion. Why then is it that we do not use local African expertise to guide us?

The only plausible explanation is that amongst the biodiversity conservation professional there is a division between those of us who recognise human needs as a key factor in environmental management and that conservation is a human construct, versus those that simply want to manage biodiversity for biodiversity’s sake (the latter considering that Sapiens is totally culpable for all damage caused and that modern humans should suffer for what our predecessors did). The difference between the purists and my approach is that I blame the authorities for the current dire situation rather that the general public. The irony is that developers and governments have exploited these differences for their short-term monetary gain. Long-term, however, it is up to all of us to ensure our own safety and wellbeing. This situation can only be resolved by us demanding better all-round management that takes into consideration the ecological and human imperatives.

In the past fynbos was block-burned to avoid excessive biomass accumulation, and to create a mosaic of different ages of fynbos so wild-fires could be more easily managed. In addition, there was also a network of fire-breaks that were well maintained annually to enable fire-fighters to contain wild-fires more easily. For those Capetonians old enough to remember there was once an inter-departmental/governmental “Cape Peninsula Wild Fire Protection Committee” whose task it was to ensure the Cape Peninsula was properly managed so that any wild-fires could be more easily contained to prevent excessive damage “to life and limb”. In the past, it was the Peninsula where most people were threatened by wildfires. Today this situation has changed with urbanisation stretching higher into all the mountainous areas in the Western Cape. I also believe that back then people were more in-tune with nature, such that they took responsibility to ensure their own properties were safely sited and fire-proofed. Urban expansion and densification that has been allowed by the City has placed additional pressure on the urban/fynbos edge, and the siting of dwellings within highly flammable vegetation makes matters even worse.

It is not just here in the Cape where Sapiens has lost their way. In recent years devastating wild-fires have ripped through Mediterranean-climate countries for example California and eastern Australia, where First World management ignores the ecological imperative of vegetation fires being the norm. Thus, the lack of ecological understanding by Sapiens is not just limited to the Western Cape but is a global malady of our species becoming increasingly divorced from Nature.

Today in South Africa we concentrate the vast majority of resources on fighting fires when they occur, rather than preventing the spread of wild-fires. Wild-fires that can be best limited by proper ecological management of the vegetation in the safe fire-season, by having effective fire-breaks, and by making sure local residents are well educated about the dangers fire and especially of wild-fire. The reason for this about-face in policy is that fire departments, that now deal with vegetation fires, have evolved from urban teams. This means we now concentrate on extinguishing wild-fires once they have started rather than managing biomass and fuel accumulation beforehand – to prevent and contain fires when the weather conspires against us in favour of run-away fires. Matters locally in the fynbos are now also complicated by excessive alien vegetation encroachment, partly as the result of the removal of well managed plantations, and because these alien infestations are not being effectively removed – despite all the money thrown at the problem. All this lack of understanding of fire ecology and the absolute requirement for proper preventative management means that when the conditions are right wild-fires pose a huge danger –  exacerbated by people in our community who take some sort of sadistic delight in starting fires. Together, these factors are a recipe for catastrophe.

From memory, and looking at the area where the fire raged on Wednesday 11th January, this is a part of the Peninsula with dense alien infestations (in some parts the aliens had been felled and gathered into piles to dry) as well as areas of old fynbos (which are massive stands of flammable biomass) that I argue should have been subjected to managed burns at a safe time of the year and safe-guarded by appropriate fire-breaks.

Capetonians will remember other devastating wild-fires in 2015 and 2000. What have we learned from these? Very little, it seems. The fact is that when the fires rage there is a lot of remarkable and extremely brave action, a lot of talking, and some amazing deeds of humanitarian action. But once the months pass we simply forget and return blissfully to our world totally divorced from Nature’s reality. The lack of awareness concerning the current drought is just another case-in-point where Sapiens shows a remarkable degree of ignorance and arrogance.

Today, because we all depend on “the authorities” to guide us and take responsibility for our welfare, we simply trust that things will improve. However, from where I sit things are in fact getting worse, much worse! Perhaps it is time for a real wake-up call and for people to start taking responsibility for their own actions? To do so people need to educate themselves and endeavour to understand the ecological drivers of fynbos, while at the same time lobbying their local members to make environmentally sound decisions, and to return to some old-fashioned appreciation and respect of Nature.

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.

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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

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

PRESENT:  150 people completed the Attendance Register.  Approximately 200 people were present.

APOLOGIES:  A number of apologies were received before and after the meeting.

OPENING
The start of the meeting was delayed by 15 minutes due to inclement weather.  The meeting was opened by Duncan Greaves (DG) of Parkscape.  It was asked that all attendees address each other respectfully.

SECURITY
Andre van Schalkwyk (AvS) of Table Mountain Watch gave a presentation on current security issues facing users of Table Mountain National Park (TMNP). On average there have been two to three attacks per month on users over the last 5 – 6 years. AvS noted that the public should not rely entirely on SANParks for safety and that people need to be more aware and educated on how to rely on their own resources. AvS offered to run TM Watch workshops for Parkscape supporters on what to look for, where to look, how to respond etc.

Question:  Tamsin Nel (TN) asked if this was a SANParks meeting and was advised that it was not.

  • TN then asked AvS how calling out in the middle of the forest could safeguard her or her child.  It became evident that this was a heated and highly emotive subject and AvS advised that he could only suggest various tools and methods to avoid or diffuse dangerous situations.
  • Diane Haantjes (DH) stated that a several attendees walked in Lower Tokai 2 – 3 times a day.  They had made the effort to get Activity Permits from SANParks.  However, the height of the fynbos made it unsafe to walk in. SANParks presence in Lower Tokai seemed to be purely for harassment in checking permits and not protection.  DH emphasized that the community wanted an area that was safe to walk in.

PARKSCAPE PRESENTATION
Nicky Schmidt (NS), Chair of Parkscape, thanked attendees for braving the weather.  NS explained what Parkscape was and why it was formed. The slides of the presentation can be found at Parkscape Community Meeting Presentation.

NS presented a brief overview of the history of TMNP and how it came to be managed by SANParks, the government’s forest exit strategy, the establishment of the Tokai Cecilia Management Framework and MTO Forestry’s position regarding the pines in Tokai and Cecilia.

NS emphasized that at no point was anyone disputing the importance of biodiversity or the importance of the fynbos biome.However, the Management Framework provided for “transition areas” in Lower Tokai. NS explained how transition areas worked and that SANParks had agreed to a balanced approach. The devastating fires of March 2015 have necessitated MTO felling the pines in Lower Tokai long before the agreed date of 2025 which means that the “transition areas” agreed to in the Framework are now highly improbable. SANParks were not offering any information on what their plans for Lower Tokai are or how they were going to ensure safety in the area. The lack of response from SANParks would indicate that the founding principles of TMNP – “to focus on public interest” – have been lost. NS pointed out that TMNP is an urban park that requires a people inclusive strategy.

Many of the TMNP user groups were deeply concerned about issues like safety, access, fires, fees and a lack of transparency of the management of the park by SANParks.

A moment of silence was held to remember Franziska Blöchliger who was murdered in the dense fynbos of Lower Tokai. The premature felling of the trees in Lower Tokai means that the transition areas agreed to in the Management Framework might no longer be established. If the entire area is given over to fynbos, it brings the risk of crime and fire right to the urban edge. SANParks could not be allowed to simply deviate from the Tokai Cecilia Management Framework. The community has to be consulted and it has to happen before the trees are felled. This public participation process has to take place as soon as possible as MTO have indicated that the trees will be felled anytime between now and the end of 2017.

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
The first speaker was Rupert Koopman (RK) from Cape Nature.  He noted that in 1996 there was 3-5 times more Cape Flats Sand fynbos than there currently is.  Healthy Sand fynbos is waist height or lower. Lower Tokai is one of very few places where the Sand fynbos can be connected to the mountain.

  • An attendee interjected to say the area was hardly connected to the mountain.  RK responded there were no physical obstructions i.e. buildings, and that the tenuous link between mountain and flats needed to be revived.
  • Someone else observed that there were just a few trees left asking why it was necessary for them to go, to which RK responded it was all that the conservationists had left for restoration.
  • Another attendee said she lived next to the forest and that it was “Port Jackson deluxe”. RK said someone needed to remove the Port Jackson.
  • RK then referred to NS’s slide “the risk of crime and fire will be brought right to the urban edge” and said the problem was that the urban edge had encroached on the fynbos. This resulted in considerable jeering and the response from an attendee that this was an issue of safety.
  • Mark Wiley (MW) reminded RK that in a Provincial Legislature environmental committee meeting, Cape Nature had indicated that in the next 12-15 years, 60 to 70% fynbos would be directly affected by global warming.
  • Pat Holmes (PH) from the City’s environmental department, indicated that the City’s conservation plan included the areas under pines which was about 5% of the total area under conservation.
  • Pam Gorre (PG), representing the Tokai Residents’ Association, asked if there any chance of maintaining some trees and of having a grassed area or will the entire area be given over to fynbos regardless of what the public says.  She asked if the original plan [the Management Framework] would not be adhered to.
  • Gavin Bell (GB) Area Manager for the TMNP South, said SANParks would be adhering to the Management Framework.
  • NS noted that SANParks had not responded to queries regarding plans for Lower Tokai and asked if they intended to adhere to the Management Framework.  GB responded that SANParks were committed to the Management Framework, they would not reverse the plan and they would have to go through a process to put the transition areas in place. NS noted that no new planting of trees had begun and if MTO were to fell the trees by the end of 2017, Lower Tokai would be left without shaded recreation.  NS noted, and GB agreed, that the current area of fynbos is where new pines would be planted and the area where MTO were due to fell, would be in line for fynbos planting.  GB went on to say that the fynbos was not yet at the 15 year burning mark. DG thanked GB for publicly committing to the Management Framework and agreeing to engage with the public.
  • TN pointed out that SANParks lack of accountability and transparency is what angered the community and that to say the addressing of safety issues was premature, was unacceptable.
  • RK was asked what was required for the current fynbos to be reduced to waist height and the answer was “a lot of money”.

Professor Eugene Moll (EM) (Botany) then gave his input on the very complex issue of fynbos conservation.  In order for Sand fynbos to survive the soil has to have low nutrients.  Research has already shown that where there are an accumulation of nutrients in the soil, Mediterranean alien invasive grasses overcome the natural species.  He stressed the importance of taking into account early literature on the subject.  EM stressed that conservation is a human construct and that people also have to be taken into account.  The city of Cape Town has been built all over Sand fynbos.  The public will has to be taken into account.

The question of what SANParks intended to do with the Arboretum was asked.  The Arboretum is not indigenous and was planted specifically to see what types of trees would survive.  GB responded by saying in a previous public participation process it was agreed that SANParks would retain the Arboretum and not fell.  It is also a National Heritage site.  The area has been badly damaged by the 2015 fire and SANParks are waiting on a report conducted by a specialist from the Department of Forestry.  EM questioned the qualifications of the specialist being used and queried the reasons why Professor Geldenhuys had not been permitted into the Arboretum.  GB stated that Coert Geldenhuys had been escorted to the periphery of the area but due to the dangerous conditions, was not allowed complete access.  EM felt that Professor Geldenhuys was better qualified to assess the trees in the Arboretum and that his inspection had been seriously curtailed.  GB argued that an assessment had taken place later and EM requested access to the report.

Roy Hirsch (RH) then asked if anyone from the City of Cape Town was present.  At this point Alderman Felicity Purchase (FP) had arrived and she was asked if the City had commissioned a report from Dr Klatzow regarding the fires of March 2015.  FP confirmed that Dr Klatzow had conducted a forensic investigation on the cause of the fires.  According to FP the report had been finalised but at this point it was still going through several committees and that if there was potential legal action involved, it would not be made available to the public.  FP is on the Table Mountain task team.

Rowena Wonfor (RW) who lives opposite the first section of Tokai Forest that was felled 10 years ago, asked SANParks what their intentions were going forward.   RW personally goes into the fynbos to hack back Port Jackson and Wattle and had to watch last year as the fire approached her house.  This was one of the first areas to be given over to fynbos but RW saw very little fynbos and mostly grass, bush and rubbish.  In 10 years, she had not seen any SANParks staff assisting in the removal of aliens or maintaining the fynbos.  RW wanted to know what the plan was if all the pines were felled.  GB replied SANParks were not responsible for the felling of the trees but rather MTO.  GB said that SANParks did maintain blocks of fynbos and had just not got to the block referred to by RW.  RW accused SANParks of having very limited knowledge of the area.

MW then commented on SANParks’ response to the felling of the pines in Lower Tokai Forest.  MW said it was disingenuous of SANParks to wash their hands of this issue and to make out that they had no interest in the felling, that it was another government department that had sold the trees to MTO.  MW said that SANParks are integral to the process and were the main drivers of the process as they are the experts in conservation in South Africa.  SANParks could not say they were not the main role player because MTO owned the trees.   The main reason MTO are felling and removing themselves from the area is because anything less than 20 000 hectares of forestry is not economically viable for them.   The government’s decision to exit forestry had been reversed on realising that the country did need forests.  Unfortunately in the Western Cape, forestry is already below the 20 000 hectare threshold thereby forcing MTO to leave the area.  MW concluded by saying that SANParks is the organisation that put the pressure on the system and to deny that is completely disingenuous.

An attendee asked whether it would be possible for “hacking parties” to be organised to keep the fynbos at an acceptable height for safety purposes.  GB replied that it was illegal to remove valuable natural indigenous vegetation in terms of the National Environmental Protected Areas Act (NEM:PAA). The public is not allowed to trim the fynbos.  AvS pointed out that the request wasn’t to trim the fynbos on the mountain but rather the fynbos in Lower Tokai which is an urban park, surrounded by housing.  AvS repeated that this was about a safety issue where people are walking in tall fynbos and referenced that the legislation be changed accordingly.
NS stated that SANParks mandate was public consultation and taking the public’s view into account. She pointed out that this was in the Minister’s Buffer Zone policy.
Dr Tony Rebelo (TR) stated that because of development, Lower Tokai is the only place left to try and conserve Sand fynbos.The only way to keep the fynbos lower was to burn it more often.Hacking and trimming is definitely not allowed.

FP was then asked to give some input from the City.  FP said the City is committed to recognising that TMNP is a park within a city and that it is a park for the people of Cape Town.  For the past 3 years the City has tried to engage with the DEA or Director General of SANParks re the now lapsed Heads of Agreement.  The City has put together a document for discussion and is awaiting a date and commitment from the DEA.  There are issues surrounding the management of the Park, how money generated is sent out of the province leaving TMNP without funds for operational requirements.  The City does see a way forward and feels that a co-operative stance is needed in the running of the Park.  Hopefully by the end of the year things would be clearer but that it may end up in litigation as many things do.
Jenny Cullinan (JC) a researcher of bees said it was critical to have natural areas for bees in order to protect our food security.  Although this was a people’s park, it had to be managed by people who understood the complexity of these special places.  JC stated that we need to understand how the bees survive in the wild so we can feed them back into agriculture and build strong bee communities.  We need the pristine and important environments preserved in order to gain information crucial to our survival.

TN then asked if SANParks was part of Public Works.  She was advised that it is part of the Department of Environmental Affairs.  TN queried why so much had been spent on bicycle lanes in Constantia rather than security in public spaces.  FP replied that she did not know what TN was referring to.

Antony Hitchcock (AH) the Living Collections and Threatened Species Manager at Kirstenbosch then made a statement.  His appeal to the audience was for conservation of the planet. His job is to prevent species of plants from going extinct. He estimated that there is now only 11% Sandplain fynbos left or which 5% sits within the Park.  International conservation laws and agendas dictate that South Africa does conservation work.  SANParks and SANBI have to work within the mandates handed down by government and international agendas to conserve flora.  He advised that the only place where effective, ecological conservation of Sandplain fynbos could take place is in Tokai.  AH felt that the height of the fynbos in Tokai could be managed with a proper fire regime.  Working with species of plants that are critically endangered or extinct in the wild and succeeding with them through hard work, means that the child of the future will see the plants again.

DG thanked AH and stressed that no one present was contesting the importance of conservation. However no regime of international law nor any national legislation can override the public’s entitlement to an administrative process that is lawful, reasonable and procedurally fair.

CONCLUSION
FP concluded that a lot of the animosity in the room is because there was no Park Forum and no engagement between the City, SANParks and the public. It is imperative that a Park Forum be formed so it can be a platform whereby users can have a voice and engage about issues.There was always going to be opposing and diverse points of view but compromise was possible. People have to be taken into consideration as does the survival of our natural environment. We need to work around issues and do what is acceptable to the majority. FP hoped that the meeting was a step in the right direction and as much as one did not want to listen to another’s opinion, the reality is that we have to. The City has to and SANParks has to.

DG thank all for their participation.

The meeting concluded at 19h50.

Support for safety and trees – by Fiona Chisholm

I’m sure many of the 200 people who left their cosy homes on the evening of July 20th in the bucketing rain to fill the Alphen Community Hall expected the meeting to be about saving the trees in the Lower Tokai Park. Instead it was about saving lives.

Nicky Schmidt, the driving force behind the event and chairperson of a group called Parkscape, is determined that 16-year old Franziska Blöchliger will not have died in vain. In early March, as we all painfully remember, Franziska was running on the sand track adjacent to the pines and parallel to Orpen Road when her assailants grabbed and dragged her into the too-tall fynbos where she was brutally raped and murdered.

“We know there are people living in the fynbos. We’ve found the signs. Some may be harmless but because muggers know it’s possible to hide without detection, they are drawn to these secret places. Accidents are just waiting to happen…..”

According to the opening speaker Andre van Schalkwyk, who runs Table Mountain Watch, which works hard to restore visitor confidence and improve safety in Table Mountain National Park – including in Lower Tokai – people must take responsibility for their own safety.

“Even in those situations where you cannot use your cellphone, pre-primed with emergency numbers, you still have three tools. Your eyes to be aware of our surroundings and who is in the vicinity. Your ears to listen for movement and your voice – a very powerful tool – to shout at the threatening person and to scream your loudest for help.”
According to Nicky, who gave an excellent power point presentation on the background to the somewhat fractious relationship between SANParks and the public, the tragedy of Franziska Blöchliger, along with other stabbings, rapes and muggings in the Table Mountain National Park, has brought about the need to create safe urban parks for all in the buffer zones of TMNP, starting with Lower Tokai.

The pines could be cut by MTO Forestry “any time between now and next year”, she said. Turning the land over to fynbos was to risk bringing fire and crime to the edge of urban life. Additionally, it could mean that the Tokai Cecilia Management Framework (which allows for shaded recreation in Tokai) that was toughly negotiated by Nicky and her previous team in 2006/7, and which was committed to by SANParks, could run aground with new environmental legislation and MTO’s early departure.

For anyone wondering who the people behind Parkscape are – well, they’re neither a bunch of activists nor a group of nutters who would tie themselves to the pine trees on the day the chainsaw teams moved in. Nicky from Stonehurst, who ran the original Parkscape in 2006 – 2008, describes the group “as eight concerned residents worried about safety in Lower Tokai, and that the recreational opportunities currently provided in the Tokai Cecilia Management Plan will be lost.”

Others in the team are Prof Eugene Moll (Kirstenhof), Chris Whyte (Tokai), Glenda Phillips (Silvertree), Ann Hutchings (Tokai), Sandra Kruger (Tokai), Renee Baard (Bergvliet) and Duncan Greaves (Stonehurst).

The second incarnation of Parkscape only came together in May and was constituted as an association a month ago. But it is fast increasing its popularity and has close on 1800 members on its database, with some as far afield as Stellenbosch and Brackenfell, along with residents from Sea Point, Newlands, Hout Bay, Noordhoek and the greater Constantia Valley.
Other groups in the area have also shown their support – such as the Tokai Residents’ Association and Neighbourhood Crime Watch, Women of Westlake, Zwaanswyk Resident’s Association and various cycling, riding, pony and dog-walking people.

So what’s to be done about Lower Tokai?

It was the late arrival of Alderman Felicity Purchase who brought the weight of the Cape Town City Council with her, that hopefully will ensure that from now on SANParks will respond to public concerns over safety and nothing will be done without public participation to adhere to the original Management Framework for a people-friendly park with shaded recreation area, pockets of fynbos and stands of non-invasive pines which will be cut and re planted.