STATEMENT BY THE OFFICE OF THE MINISTER OF ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS AND TOURISM, MARTHINUS VAN SCHALKWYK
Integrated Coastal Management Bill to preserve the integrity of SA's coastline
"I am pleased to announce that Cabinet has approved the Integrated Coastal Management Bill for release for public comment. The Bill will be Gazetted on 15 December 2006 and as it is a complex Bill it will be open for public comment for a period of 90 days" said Marthinus Van Schalkwyk, Minister of Environmental Affairs & Tourism.
Commenting on the reason for introducing the Bill, the Minister said, "As in many other coastal areas of the world, South Africa's coastline is recognised as a national treasure that provides enormous social and economic benefits. However, the coast is not currently being managed and developed in a way that makes best use of its resources. Economic and social opportunities for wealth creation and equity are being missed and coastal ecosystems are being degraded."
The Minister explained the significance of the proposed legislation: "The Integrated Coastal Management Bill provides the legal means for implementing the far-sighted White Paper for Sustainable Coastal Development in South Africa of April 2000. The Bill replaces the 1935 Seashore Act and the 1980 Control of Dumping at Sea Act and introduces, for the first time, a comprehensive national system for planning and managing South Africa's spectacular and valuable coastal areas."
Preserving an Ancient Commons for Future Generations The Minister expanded on the historical context of the Bill: " Since before Roman times, the seashore was defined as the common property of everyone. The Bill builds on this ancient principle by declaring the seashore, tidal waters (such as estuaries) and South Africa's territorial seas, to be coastal public property. The Bill requires the state to act as the trustee of coastal public property and to ensure that it is conserved and used for the benefit of the whole community, including future generations" .
"In the past, there have been areas where the public's right to enjoy the seashore has been rendered meaningless by exclusive developments which prevent people gaining access to the beach. In some cases, elite coastal resorts have prevented fishing communities and the public using traditional access routes to the beach or hiking trails along coastal cliffs. The new Bill will require that public access servitudes be established along the coast to ensure that everyone can get access to the coast to enjoy our natural heritage.
Fundamentally, the purpose of the National Coastal Management Bill is to:
Provide a legal and administrative framework that will promote cooperative, coordinated and integrated coastal development; Preserve, protect and enhance the status of the coastal environment as the heritage of all; Ensure coastal resources are managed in the interests of the whole community; Ensure there is equitable access to the opportunities and benefits derived from the coast; and To give effect to certain of South Africa 's international law obligations." Responding to Sea-Level Rise and Climate Change
The Minister explained further, " The Bill also provides new measures to protect coastal areas from being degraded by inappropriate developments and pollution. It will establish a buffer zone inland of the h igh-water mark within which certain activities will be prohibited and additional development controls will be applied. It also gives government the power to prevent development too close to the sea by establishing 'set-back lines'. These measures are important not only to preserve the beauty of coastal landscapes but also to respond to threats posed by, for example, rising sea-levels associated with climate change or dynamic coastal processes. " Greater Controls Over Marine Pollution
Minister Van Schalkwyk also addressed the impact of the Bill on pollution: "Dumping and incineration at sea will continue to be prohibited in accordance with South Africa's international obligations and there will be greater control over the discharge of pollutants via sea-outfall pipes."
Creating an Integrated System of Coastal Management
The Minister remarked, " Another innovation of the Bill is the establishment of a comprehensive system of coastal planning. For the first time national, provincial and municipal plans and policies aimed at ensuring that the coast is conserved and developed in an ecologically sustainable way will have a firm legal basis. National government, coastal provinces and coastal municipalities will be given powers to establish coastal management programmes ("CMPs") that set specific, enforceable, coastal management objectives that will guide decision-makers. For example, if a coastal management objective was to maintain a certain quality of water at a bathing beach, no public body would authorise any activity that would prevent that objective being met".
"Already several provinces and municipalities have draft CMPs in place and we can expect the management of the coast to improve dramatically once the Bill is passed and they have the legal teeth to enforce these CMPs. The Bill is designed to replace inefficient and uncoordinated approaches to coastal management with one of the most progressive integrated management systems in the world. It will also enable different government departments to work together and eventually to combine a range of existing authorizations into a single integrated coastal permit for coastal developments."
Control of Illegal Coastal structures
The Minister stressed that, "The bill provides for government to exercise better control over structures erected illegally in the coastal zone e.g. houses, jetties and retaining walls. This is the first piece of legislation that gives authority to control illegal structures through issuing of repair and removal notices. This will help government ensure that the ecological integrity of the coastal zone is not compromised".
The Minister also indicated that, "The Bill makes provision for improved estuarine management in South Africa through the development of an over-arching national estuarine management protocol and management plans for individual estuaries".
The Importance of Public Participation
" The new Integrated Coastal Management Bill is both far-reaching and progressive. It is of great importance not only to us all, but also to future generations. I urge anyone who has an interest in the protection and sustainable use of the coast to participate in the process of finalising the Bill by contributing positive suggestions as to how we might further improve it".
"We are now on an accelerated path to decisive action that will eliminate historical confusion, provide clear parameters for the planning of future coastal developments, and create economic opportunities by increasing access to our coastal public property."