Green Scorpions coming to Langebaan
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Green Scorpions coming to Langebaan

A knock on the door by the Green Scorpions was probably the last thing the owners of a dozen Melkbosstrand seafront properties were expecting.

But they are all alleged to have infringed environmental regulations by illegally extending the footprint of their properties into the proclaimed public open space on the adjoining coastal dune, and to have caused some degree of ecological damage to the sensitive dune vegetation as a result.

While a few of these encroachments are just one or two metres, others involve big swathes of manicured lawn and substantial landscaped gardens extending 20m or more into the coastal dune. In some places, irrigation systems, wooden and stone pathways, and even a children’s jungle gym and a trampoline were installed well beyond the properties’ cadastral boundaries.

One resident has put up a “no entry” sign along an illegal wooden boardwalk leading through the dune between the beach and his house, while large amounts of lawn clippings, dead palm fronds and other garden refuse have been dumped into the dune vegetation.

On Thursday, a joint task team of the province’s Green Scorpions – environmental management inspectors – and colleagues from the City of Cape Town’s environmental resource management unit visited 12 sea-fronting properties in Harold Ashwell Boulevard, where alleged contraventions of the National Environmental Management Act (Nema) regulations had been identified from aerial photographs and other sources.

“Listed activities” in the coastal zone for which special environmental authorisation is required include construction or earth-moving activities within 100m of the high-water mark, and preventing the free movement of sand by planting vegetation and/or removing or damaging indigenous vegetation of more than 10m2, also within 100m of the sea.

Thursday’s “ground truthing” inspection, after the initial identification of a possible transgression, was the second step in the legal process of having the affected areas restored to public open space, and rehabilitated.

Now the department will send the property owners “pre-directive” warning letters, pointing out the alleged offences and inviting them to respond.

Then, should any owner not respond appropriately to that warning, he or she will be issued with a formal compliance notice. And if that notice is ignored, the province can levy a fine as high as R5 million, team leader Achmad Bassier explained.

There were similar problems along the whole of the province’s coastline, including at places like Paradise Beach in Langebaan and at Clifton, he said.

“Some residents are not aware that what they’re doing requires authorisation, and so our visits are a bit of a surprise to them.

But as environmental inspectors we have a mandate, it’s our work. And we do also create environmental awareness,” he said.

The city’s coastal management specialist, Mr Darryl Colenbrander, said it was important to address transgressions of this nature early.

“Actions that these residents have taken create a problem for us because it’s an encroachment into public open space and can cause coastal erosion that ends up as a problem on the city’s doorstep, so we need to address this now.

“And part of the problem is the incremental growth (into public space) that is quite hard to keep track of. That’s why we need a handle on this.”

While several of the 12 properties visited on Thursday were unoccupied or had visitors staying there, Bassier said he was satisfied that they had been able to make contact, and were prepared to send formal warning letters.

Dale Wakefield, one of the Green Scorpions, said one of the residents who had been at home had been very upset by the visit, and had insisted that the family had built their property 17 years ago, long before the Nema regulations had come into effect.

“I suspect we’re going to be thrown this curved ball at every house. But the cadastral boundaries are defined, and they are encroaching into public open space,” he said.


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