Earlier this month, the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism introduced the Integrated Coastal Management Bill, which aims to regulate human activities within, or that affect, the coastal zone. Commercial and industrial property broker, Warren Jack, gives his thoughts on the newly tabled Bill.
In order to understand the value of the Bill, let’s just dwell on our coastline for a second. It is undeniably a unique part of the environment; a limited spatial area that supports many activities, as the Bill’s public participation document so aptly puts it.
There is no denying the fact that it is a distinctive system with a range of considerations that requires a dedicated and integrated management approach.
It is probably fair to say that in the past the value of coastal ecosystems, as a cornerstone for development, was not sufficiently acknowledged. To quote the White Paper, which emphasises the intrinsic worth of the coast, the value of the direct benefits obtained from coastal “goods and services” was estimated in 1998 to be about R168 billion annually (35% of the country’s annual Gross Domestic Product).
The public participation document further reads, “. . . much of the wealth locked up in our coast continues to be wasted due to environmentally insensitive development and activities. Economic and social opportunities for wealth creation and equity are being missed and coastal ecosystems are being degraded.
“The coast needs to be managed as a system in order to make optimal use of the opportunities and benefits it provides.”
The Bill – which defines areas such as coastal buffer zones, coastal access land, coastal protected areas, special management areas and coastal set-back lines – now gives the Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, a vehicle to manage the coastline, holistically.
However, the mere mention of a term such as a “coastal buffer zone” is sure to have parties with development fingers in coastal pies sitting nervously upright. Especially since this zone extends one hundred metres inland from the high-water mark in areas that have already been zoned for residential, commercial, industrial or multiple-use purposes (up to one kilometre inland in other areas).
A mouthful, but, nevertheless, a warning signalled loud and clear.
Perhaps the future (for developers) is not as dire and as cutthroat as the Bill makes it seem like at first glance, but, as it stands now (and once it is published as law), it could have a huge impact on all sectors of the coastal property market.
Granted, we definitely need better control measures along our coastlines, and certain areas are precious gems for tourism, but, if we were to develop like the rest of the world, which has prime properties on the coastline, then this Bill would need to be seriously reconsidered.
Government should decide if we are to become a first world country, or make a U-turn and gallop back into the Dark Ages.
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Full Stop Communications
On behalf of:
Warren Jack (Warren Jack Property Group)