Minister Barbara Creecy’s Response in Parliament to questions on the Tokai Cecilia Management Framework

In January 2021 questions were put to Minister Barbara Creecy Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment about the process that has unfolded as regarding litigation and public engagement as regards the Tokai Cecilia Management Framework.  The Minister responded to Parliament on 12 March 2021.

Her response can be found here: RNW550-2021-03-12 Ministers TCMF response

It is worth noting the following from the Minister’s reply:

“SANParks acknowledges that this is an area of underperformance.” 

“As Minister I have written to the chairperson of SANParks to express my dissatisfaction with the manner in which stakeholder management is being undertaken in this regard.”

With the Tokai Cecilia Management Framework about to get underway, it is alarming to note that SANParks have allowed only five days – of which only three are working days – for the public to be informed and register for the review process.  We fear that this may be yet another impediment to a process with which SANParks has already tampered – to their cost.

MEDIA RELEASE: The Trouble in Tokai – SANParks’ extraordinary management of an aesthetic and heritage landscape

The recent Devil’s Peak fire has thrown concerns about the management of Table Mountain National Park, by SANParks, into sharp relief. While issues abound across the park, these concerns are particularly obvious in Tokai – a multifaceted section of the Park popular with a wide range of recreational users and rich in both cultural and aesthetic heritage – and home to the TMNP Head Office.

In the present moment the slopes of Upper Tokai are blanketed under a heavy fuel load resulting from the clearing of dense infestations of predominantly Australian species but also pines which flourished in the wake of the 2015 fires.  The fire risk alone is cause for considerable concern, but there is a backstory which needs unpacking.

In 2005 an unsuspecting public were made aware via the 2005 Park Management Plan that the plantations of Cecilia and Tokai (the birthplace of forestry in South Africa) were to be clear-felled.  This was a national government decision and ran counter to the consultation and research conducted by UCT’s environmental unit in 1994, which underpin the Park’s formation. The UCT report noted, “Both Cecilia and Newlands forests are effectively managed for recreational purposes only, and are considered distinctive components of the Peninsula’s cultural landscape.” The report noted the considerable value the plantations had for the people of Cape Town, particularly those from disadvantaged communities. When SANParks made a submission for World Heritage Status to UNESCO in 2004 it stated that: “Portions of the demarcated State Forests, Tokai and Cecilia, are managed for timber production by a state company, Mountain to Ocean (MTO). Negotiations are currently underway to include the forests into the CPNP [Cape Peninsula National Park] to be managed as part of the national park.”

Given this, it is unsurprising that the public took exception to the proposed clear-felling of the plantations. Intense negotiations with stakeholders ensued, which gave rise to the Tokai Cecilia Management Framework (TCMF), a document providing for the retention of critical shaded recreation (species were not specified) on a rotational basis thus also ensuring restoration of fynbos seedbanks. Negotiations also included saving the Tokai Picnic site following on SANParks’ intent to remove it and the old oaks that line the avenue to the Tokai Manor House.

The TCMF should have been reviewed in every five years, but this has never happened. Instead following on the fires of 2015, the exclusion of the TMCF was simply noted in the 2015 Park Management Plan. What Park users saw was the closure of Upper Tokai for two and a half years, and a move to clear fell the entire upper, middle and lower Tokai.  This was done ahead of the harvesting schedule, using the fires as the reason (despite middle and lower Tokai being unaffected by the fires) and without the legally required public consultation.

When MTO Forestry arrived in Lower Tokai – a site popular with the surrounding community and mixed user groups – in September 2016 and attempted to start felling, the community exploded in uproar.  The uproar was to have been expected given SANParks had assured the community at a public meeting in July 2016 that it was committed to the TCMF and could not reverse the plan. An urgent interdict was sought by voluntary NPO, Parkscape, which led to first High Court and then Supreme Court action, which Parkscape won on both occasions.  SANParks and MTO Forestry were interdicted and restrained both “from felling any trees in the area of the Tokai Forest described as the Dennendal plantation in accordance with the new felling schedule, unless and until valid and lawful decisions to that effect are taken”. The valid and lawful decisions reference public consultation.  The judgement was handed down in May 2018.  To date, no public consultation has held and emails requesting clarity have been ignored, as have lawyers’ letters detailing the multiple breaches to the TCMF.  The replanting of shade trees that should have commenced has also not taken place.

Following on the March 2015 fires, Upper Tokai wasn’t fully reopened until 29 December 2017 and then only after considerable pressure from the mountain biking community. Immediately evident, aside from the considerable erosion of forestry jeep tracks, was the sheer volume of young Australian acacia species and eucalypts invading the slopes. When asked why these infestations were not being addressed, Parkscape was advised that the Park faced a lack of budget. This from a Park that earned R307 973 959 in 2018 and R371 657 366 in 2019…

From the time of reopening Upper Tokai until approximately five months ago, the landscape remained untouched, the infestations of exotics spreading  – an ecological catastrophe and a massive fire risk, which Parkscape warned about in its 2019 fire presentation at Kirstenbosch.

Hindsight would suggest that had SANParks not been so desperate to undermine the Tokai Cecilia Management Framework by mass clear-felling of the plantations, they would have been better able to manage restoration work on a block by block basis – particularly given only sections of the plantation were affected by fire.  Now, and following on extensive public pressure during the course of 2020, much clearing has been done and the slopes are brown with dry slash.  This slash should have been piled into stacks, ready for stack burns in the winter.  Instead some of it has been laid out in windrows and the rest simply left in situ. There appear to be no plans to reduce the hundreds of tons of fuel left in the wake of clearing operations.

Also apparent after the reopening of Upper Tokai was the neglect of the Tokai Arboretum, a National Heritage Site first planted in 1885, and the destruction of a grove of protected champion redwoods, planted in 1887. Research revealed that while a handful of redwoods had been destroyed by fire, the majority of the fire-hardy trees were resprouting. This did not stop many of the still-healthy trees being felled. (The grove falls under the protection of the Department of Forestry, which opened a case against SANParks in 2019.)  When SANParks were questioned about the felling, they claimed to be unaware of it – this despite the fact that the road from the redwoods passes in front of the Tokai Manor House, which currently serves as TMNP headquarters. The huge lumber trucks carrying the giant logs could hardly have been missed.

During the time of the closure of Upper Tokai, SANParks installed a boom across the road immediately after the Tokai Picnic Site and a gate across the entrance to the parking at the Arboretum.  Neither have not been removed and what was free access now involves paid parking at the picnic site. For the elderly, the disabled and those with young children the one kilometre distance makes access challenging. Per the Tokai Manor Precinct Plan – which was approved in 2012 but has never materialised – the Arboretum parking is supposed to not only be open to the public, but more parking should have been provided. Repeated queries and requests over the last couple of years, to have the gate opened, have simply been ignored. Further, Lister’s Restaurant, a once popular tea room, named after the “father of forestry”, Joseph Storr Lister, is derelict and abandoned. The Arboretum, a sad shadow of its former self is also at considerable risk of fire, given the condition of the slopes of upper Tokai. We have been advised that SANParks doesn’t have the budget to manage it.

Many of the heritage buildings that surround the Tokai Manor House, which dates to 1796, are in shocking condition, and the new office block has stood empty since its completion over two years ago.

Further, an area in middle Tokai, comprising a mix of approximately 200 indigenous and non-invasive exotics, including both Podacarpus falcatus and Podocarpus latifolius (both protected under the National Forests Act 1998), which could have provided shade space for the community, were ringbarked and poisoned in 2018 – shortly after the judgement was handed down.  The now dead trees still stand – a risk to people and a fire risk to the area, which is directly adjacent to the popular Tokai Picnic site.

Accompanying all the above is the simple failure to engage with the public in any meaningful way. Emails querying concerns and offering assistance are frequently ignored.  Tokai District Riding Association and Tokai MTB build and maintain their own trails.  Tokai MTB provides its own security to mountain bikers in Upper Tokai, while in Lower Tokai, Parkscape runs its own security patrols, awareness drives and clean ups.

It is interesting to note that in response to questions regarding the TCMF put to Minister Creecy of the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment earlier this year, she responded: “SANParks acknowledges that this is an area of underperformance.”  She further stated, “As Minister I have written to the chairperson of SANParks to express my dissatisfaction with the manner in which stakeholder management is being undertaken in this regard.”  We would respectfully suggest that the Minister looks further than stakeholder engagement to the broader issues of how the greater Tokai area is managed, and notes that the poor management of the area is representative of the management of the Park per se.

 

Images of the slopes of upper Tokai and the from the Tokai Arboretum indicating massive fire risk to the entire Tokai area

MEDIA RELEASE – “Devastation and Ruin – and they were warned”

Firefighters battle the Devil’s Peak blaze on 18 April 2021 (Image: NCC Wildfires)

Nicky Schmidt of the community-environmental NPO Parkscape says the organisation is devastated by the catastrophic fires that raged across Devil’s Peak on Sunday 18 April and which have subsequently spread across the area above Vredehoek.

Schmidt points to the fire presentation hosted by Parkscape, with partners NCC Wildfires, the Cape Peninsula Fire Protection Association, SANBI and the Constantia Wine Route in October 2019.  “We said then that the risk was significant.  We live in a fire dependent biome that needs to burn every 10 to 15 years, in an era of unprecedented climate change, and in a city where our wildland interfaces – the national park – directly abuts dense urban interfaces. Without proper management – and education of the public – it is a recipe for disaster – exactly as we’re currently seeing.”

Schmidt further points to the repeated warnings seen across social media platforms about the risks arising from homeless people living in the Park and making campfires.  “The sheer volume of reports from the public – many of which are referred as a direct concern to SANParks – points to the extent of the problem.  And yet SANParks does nothing.”

“When you couple this with the fuel load in the Park and failure to deal with alien infestations,” and here Schmidt specifically references the slopes of Devil’s Peak which have been littered with tinderbox dry pine trunks and stumps for many years, “then the likelihood of disaster is multiplied – as we see now.”

While Schmidt has nothing but praise for the firefighting crews and SANParks fire chief, Philip Prins, she acknowledges that Prins works under impossible circumstances. “The public think that Prins makes fire decisions in a vacuum, but he is entirely dependent on other staff in the Park doing their jobs properly, in order to enable to do his job.”  Schmidt says given the good working relationship Parkscape has with Prins, they are well aware of the challenges he faces.  “He knows about the vagrants living in the Park and the risk they pose, but it doesn’t fall into his portfolio to remove them or address the problems.

He’s also well aware of the issue of fuel load, but he’s dependent on rangers to request stack or controlled burns. What this reveals,” says Schmidt, “is the dysfunctionality that exists within the management of TMNP.”  She adds that this dysfunctionality leads to a mismanagement of the Park that puts the lives and properties of the citizens of Cape Town at unwarranted risk, a situation which has been aggravated by the repeated budget cuts made to the Park over the past ten years.

Parkscape has consulted on the fire with Prof Coert Geldenhuys of Stellenbosch University who has a special interest in fire flow patterns in the landscape from the perspective of natural forests surviving devastating fires in the fire-prone and fire-adapted Fynbos environment.

Geldenhuys echoes Schmidt saying, “The accumulating fuel loads in the natural, fire-prone environments within the urban environment is a major concern that needs urgent attention from the relevant responsible authorities (municipality and SANParks). The risks of accumulating fuel loads are aggravated by invader plants that grow taller than Fynbos, increasing the chances of fire spotting, also into the urban environment. Fire ignition by vagrants during such extreme hot and dry conditions caused by the North-westerly Bergwinds and the South-easter, is a recipe for disaster. The responsibility lies with the relevant authorities to reduce fuel loads regularly, and to unsure that places where vagrants live, if they are not evicted, are safe during such catastrophic events. The authorities need to collaborate with willing, active and concerned citizen groups to ensure safety in the wildland-urban interface.”

Professor Eugene Moll, Parkscape’s Environmental Consultant says, “The fire in the vicinity of Rhodes Memorial was a catastrophe waiting to happen. TMNP have proved time and again that they are unable to manage flammable vegetation that abuts a city.” Moll also, however, says, “The City of Cape Town and residents must shoulder some of this blame too; they are all people without a real ecological comprehension of living in a region where fire is primary ecological driver.”

Moll reiterates what Schmidt has said about Prins. “This catastrophe cannot be blamed on someone like Philip Prins who fully understands the essence of control burning for hazard reduction, but is prevented from doing his job by those higher up in the pecking-order. It is time we had a proper and thorough review of how the TMNP is managed, not by some government appointed lackies but by independent people who fully comprehend the critical importance of their task. If we bumble on again, we will have another similar disaster in another year or more. Surely it is time to sort this situation out once and for all?”

Agreeing with Moll, Schmidt says it is long overdue that the failure to manage Table Mountain National Park properly is brought into sharp focus.  “It’s just not working and we cannot risk it continuing to not work – too much is at stake. We need to see a completely different model of managing the Park.  She points to a report Parkscape wrote for the City in 2007. “We noted then that there were serious issues with the management strategies of Table Mountain National Park – the risk of those strategies now stares us in the face – and yet still we sit with the same old management.  It clearly doesn’t work and we need, with the City of Cape Town, to be looking at alternatives – a privatisation or Special Purpose Vehicle model.”

 

Issued by:
Parkscape

Media Liaison:  Kelly Burke

Contact details:

Kelly Burke kelly@fluxcom.co.za
Cell: 082 498 2797

New sedge species discovered following on a Plant Species Survey of Lower Tokai in 2019

In 2019, under the guidance of Prof Eugene Moll, Parkscape commissioned botanist Doug Euston Brown to conduct a survey of the Lower Tokai conservation site. The primary aim of the survey was to provide a definitive list of what species were currently occurring in Lower Tokai Park (to the east of Orpen Road). We requested that various trait data also be provided (e.g. longevity, growth form, abundance, distribution) for each species as well as their current red list status.

Of critical conservation interest and arising directly from the work commissioned by Parkscape was the discovery of Schoenus inconspicuus, Hidden Veldrush, listed as “Critically Endangered”.

The research paper arising from this discovery, and describing the plant, can be found on the Research Gate site.

The report provided to us by Doug Euston Brown can be read in the link below. The report is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Short report on plant species survey done in Lower Tokai in 2019

Schoenus inconspicuus (Cyperaceae, tribe Schoeneae) – Hidden Veldrush

 

Setting the record straight on the Tokai and Cecilia Forestry Exit Strategy

Various sources, including the Constantiaberg Bulletin, have repeatedly stated that the State chose to exit from Forestry in 1999, including Tokai and Cecilia plantations.  This is incorrect.  In 1999, the State chose to restructure state forestry assets. Press releases at the time were clear that the Tokai and Cecilia plantations would remain in perpetuity for the benefit of the people of Cape Town.

In a joint press release of 14 September 2000 then-Ministers Radebe and Kasrils stated: “An in-principle agreement has been reached between South African National Parks (SANP) and the management of the South African Forestry Company Limited (Safcol) to the effect that the Tokai and Cecilia plantations situated within the Table Mountain area will be incorporated into the Cape Peninsula National Park.  The areas will however continue to operate as commercial timber plantations and Safcol will manage these on an agency basis.  Tourism facilities will operate under the National Park and the plantations will continue to serve as important public recreational areas.”

In his press release of 2003 Minister Kasrils further stated: “Due to their location, Tokai and Cecilia plantations are an outdoor refuge for thousands of nearby city dwellers, particularly for previously disadvantaged communities living in the nearby Cape Flats area.  Exceptionally huge pine and eucalyptus trees that were planted at the inception of the plantation in the 1880s create a unique environment of scenic beauty and tranquillity within the city boundaries of Cape Town. The plantation areas are used for various sporting and recreational activities, such as jogging, mountain biking, and horse riding as well as hiking. The formalised picnic areas are exceptionally popular with people from areas around Cape Town with more than 100 000 visitors annually. These activities should remain part of the plantations’ management plan allowing public access and enjoyment of the area as well as commercial forest activities.”

SANParks in their submission for World Heritage Status to UNESCO in 2004 stated that the Tokai and Cecilia forests would be incorporated into and be managed as part of the national park by MTO Forestry. The submission states, “Tokai and Cecilia are commercially managed plantations within the boundaries of the CPPNE. MTO’s environmental policy supports the principles of Caring for the Earth and the International Forestry Stewardship Council. MTO is currently developing an Environmental Management System based on the ISO14001 standard.”

However, as early as 1999, Dr Tony Rebelo started pushing for the removal of the plantations in a bid to preserve endangered Cape Sand Fynbos in the lower Tokai area. In a 2004 report for Friends of Tokai Park, an entity run by Tony Rebelo and James Forsyth, Dr Pat Holmes, Dr Rebelo’s wife, writes “…forestry operations will be phased out over the next twenty years (James Forsyth & Braam du Preez, personal communications), with compartments potentially becoming available for restoration to natural vegetation following harvesting.”

This is of particular interest given that it is a few months later in January 2005, that Minister Buyelwa Sonjica of the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, announced the decision exit from forestry in the Western Cape, including forestry in Tokai and Cecilia.   The press release states: “The Minister also assigned management responsibility for the Tokai Cecilia State forests in Cape Town to SANParks. This follows Cabinet’s decision in 1996 to develop the Cape Peninsula Protected Natural Environment. Tokai and Cecilia forests (1 001 hectares in extent) are located in the Protected Environment area and contain important lowland and mountain fynbos as well as pockets of Afro-montane forest, which need to be maintained. Eventually the two forests will be incorporated into the Table Mountain National Park (TMNP). In the interim, Tokai and Cecilia will be managed by MTO in terms of a 20 year lease during which they will gradually clear-fell the area where after it will be released for conservation.”

It is interesting to note that shortly after this, in April 2005, in the Key Issue Paper on Policy for the Transfer of State Owned Industrial Plantations, the authors note, “It is becoming increasingly recognised within the international forest policy debate that plantations offer tangible public benefits.” The report goes on to state, “In some countries (such as the UK) these public benefits have been valued to such an extent that the state has decided that it is in the public interest that the forests remain under public management and control. The emphasis of South Africa’s public goods is likely to be more on local economic development opportunities and the impact on downstream processing, but Tokai and Cecelia [sic] on the Cape Peninsular [sic] offer examples of where the recreational values of a forest may outweigh their commercial values.”

The decision to exit forestry in the Western Cape was done without consultation with the public or the forestry industry.   The public became primarily aware of the clear-felling decision via the 2006 TMNP Draft Park Management Plan.

 

PARKSCAPE 2018 FUNDRAISING GOLF CHALLENGE

CALLING ALL GOLFERS!

After the enormous success of our inaugural Golf Day last year, we’re hitting the greens and fairways again on 12 APRIL 2018 at WESTLAKE GOLF CLUB!

For a glimpse of last year’s event, take a look at our Events page.

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

As with last year, aside from a fun day out on the golf course which includes snacks and tea/coffee with registration, Halfway Lunch and beverage, after game food platters, and a raffle, we will also be hosting our charity auction with well-known auctioneer, Joey Burke, as our MC for the evening.

We have some great items on offer including art work by Tay Dall, Andrew Cooper, Derric Van Rensburg, Ann Gadd and Jenny Jackson.

Flame Dance, by Tall Dall, one of the artworks on offer

We also have a line up of lovely accommodation and meals, including a wonderful three course meal from Michelin starred chef, Jurgen Schneider, at Springfontein Eats.

An array of wonderful Springfontein Eats dishes to tantalise your tastebuds

To ensure everyone wins something each team will be awarded a prize.  Yes, we think our players are worth spoiling!

We very much look forward to your company on the 12th April, whether as player, hole sponsor or prize sponsor.

For further information and registration forms, please click on the links below.

Parkscape Golf Day Cover Letter FINAL        Parkscape Golf Day Registration Forms 2018

Leave to Appeal is granted to SANParks

As you will be aware from the previous post, SANParks applied for leave to appeal against the judgement on 22 March, in the matter of Parkscape vs MTO and SANParks.

After taking considered legal advice Parkscape chose not to appeal the judgement.

SANParks’ leave to appeal was granted by Judge Pat Gamble on 25 April 2017, and Parkscape will meet SANParks in the Supreme Court of Appeal at a future date.

The Court Order may be viewed at Granting of Leave to Appeal April 2017.

Please note that the Court Order states:  “That, pending the outcome of the appeal, and any appeal process which may follow thereafter to the Constitutional Court, Second Respondent has undertaken not to permit the felling of pine trees in the Dennendal plantation in Table Mountain National Park.”

We are clearly in for the long ride but during that time shaded recreation will remain.

We are currently fund-raising to meet the cost of the Supreme Court of Appeal hearing via our inaugural Golf Day to be hosted on 8 June 2017. (See HERE for more information.)  We also plan to hold further community-focused fundraising events.  We do not, however, expect to be able to cover the full cost of the appeal with the funds raised from the Golf Day and smaller events. To this end we once again appeal to the generosity and community spirit you have previously shown in supporting the work Parkscape is doing with regard to SANParks and Tokai Park – particularly given there is likelihood that this case may go all the way to the Constitutional Court.

Should you wish to donate, please find our banking and Snapscan details below.  As ever, we thank you for your generosity and support through this entire process.

 

The Judgement and SANParks’ Leave to Appeal

On 1 March, Judge Patrick Gamble delivered judgement on the matter between Parkscape vs MTO Forestry (the first respondent) and SANParks (the second respondent).
The Order of the Court stated:

1. The applicant’s application, dated 2 November 2016, to amend its notice of motion, is granted;

2. The decision of the second respondent, taking during or about August 2016, to fell trees in the Tokai Forest in accordance with a new felling schedule, is hereby reviewed and set aside;

3. The first and second respondents are interdicted and restrained from felling any trees in the area of the Tokai Forest described as the Dennendal plantation in accordance with the new felling schedule, unless and until valid and lawful decisions to that effect are taken;

4. The second respondent shall pay the applicant’s costs herein, such costs to include the costs of the interdict application, the costs occasioned by the employment of one counsel only, and the qualifying fees of Prof Eugene John Moll;

5. The 1st respondent shall pay its own costs of suit.

The full judgement can be found HERE

On 22 March SANParks file Leave to Appeal. At this stage we do not know when Judge Gamble will hear the application.
The application can be found in the following link: SANParks leave to appeal

Cape Talk interview on the judgement

 

Cape Talk Interview with Parkscape Chair, Nicky Schmidt.

You can also listen to the interview on SoundCloud.

 

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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