Exploring options for the future governance and coordination of the Garden Route Initiative

The aim of this project is to investigate a suitable landscape-scale initiative model that will:

· promote the wise and sustainable management of the valuable natural resources in the area;

· enhance human endeavour (social, economic and cultural); and

· support education and research related to the environment and human activities therein.

Through an extensive stakeholder engagement process, this project will encourage stakeholders to explore the most effective structure to advance the above-mentioned aims. This will include investigating the suitability of, and public support for, the establishment of a Biosphere Reserve (or similar model) encompassing the Garden Route and adjacent marine environment. The strategy, vision, and governance arrangements of the preferred model will be formulated through the stakeholder engagement process. Business plans for at least two funded projects, under the aegis of the proposed structure, will be compiled.

BRIEF HISTORY

The Garden Route Initiative (GRI) is a long-term, multi-stakeholder landscape-level conservation and development initiative. The initiative was formulated within the framework of the CAPE 20 year strategy. The GRI is currently under direction of the Eden District Municipality, but without funding, a formal coordination unit, or project support.

The Garden Route is home to the renowned RAMSAR site, the Wilderness Lakes, and other ecologically sensitive and vulnerable ecosystems, e.g. the Knysna River and Estuary, the adjacent forests, and the Keurbooms River and Estuary. It is under threat from climate change, inappropriate development, mismanagement of water resources, the significant increase in the spread of invasive alien plants, inappropriate water abstraction and urban development.

Some of the partners in the GRI have recent experience establishing the adjacent Gouritz Cluster Biosphere Reserve. This knowledge will be effectively used to avoid unnecessary delays and promote an effective and thorough stakeholder engagement process.

Through a partner-driven approach, the GRI intends to investigate and implement a suitable landscape-scale initiative model that will promote the wise and sustainable management of the valuable natural resources and deliver significant socioeconomic benefits to the people of the area. The Biosphere Reserve model will be carefully investigated, since the Garden Route shares a substantial border with the proposed Gouritz Cluster Biosphere Reserve domain and would form a significant corridor between the arid Klein Karoo, through the Knysna forest and coastal flood plain, to the Indian Ocean. (The biosphere concept developed by the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) initiative by UNESCO harmonizes sustainable economic activity with natural and heritage resources and the Gouritz domain is particularly deserving of Biosphere Reserve status.)

An important focus will be the utilization and practical application of the numerous tools available, including the products generated from the CEPF-funded project (e.g. the Biodiversity Sector Plan).

Similar to the Gouritz Cluster Biosphere Reserve, the Garden Route Initiative aligns with Strategic Objective 2 of the draft CAPE strategy. In adaptation to changing climatic conditions, the Garden Route forms a large scale corridor linking the natural inland habitats with the coast and marine ecosystems, encouraging migration and the safe passage of species.

PROJECT OBJECTIVES

Objective 1:

Development of a strategy and vision to guide the most appropriate landscape scale model (this is likely to be the Biosphere Reserve model, but will be determined through an extensive stakeholder engagement process).

Objective 2:

Identify governance arrangements for the preferred landscape scale model (eg a S21 company for a Biosphere Reserve)

Objective 3:

Identify funded projects that will advance the vision of the appropriate model.

PROJECT OUTPUTS

Output 1:

Compilation of background information document: The project executant (du Toit) has extensive information on the background of the Gouritz Cluster Biosphere Reserve; the project leader (Gibbs-Halls) has the documentation on the Garden Route Initiative. These data will be condensed and made accessible to all stakeholders.

Output 2:

Interviews will be conducted with individuals in all relevant spheres of government and parastatals: (National and Provincial Departments of Environmental Affairs, Water Affairs and Agriculture; Eden District Municipality; George Municipality; Knysna Municipality; Bitou Municipality; Kouga Municipality and Cape Nature, SANParks and the Working for Programme).

Output 3:

Interviews will be conducted with Environmental NGOs (at least Nature’s Valley Trust, WESSA, Knysna Environmental Forum, Plettenberg BayEnvironmental Forum, Mossel Bay Environmental Partnership, BOTSOC, EWT and Birdlife) and the business forums of each major town.

Output 4:

Meetings will be conducted in each of the 5 local Municipalities, including presentations and feedback sessions at the quarterly GRI forum meetings.

Output 5:

Advertisements will be placed in each of the local newspapers (eg Garden Route edition of Die Burger). Advertisements will be submitted to the CAPE network and other electronic networks (e.g. the GRI and WESSA websites).

Output 6:

Strategy, vision, and governance arrangements will be formulated through the stakeholder engagement process.

Output 7:

Business plans for at least two funded projects will be compiled, drawing on the expertise and knowledge within the existing GRI partners.

WE WELCOME ALL COMMENTS AND SUGGESTIONS, PARTICULARLY IN RELATION TO FUTURE GOVERNANCE AND FUNDED PROJECT OPPORTUNITIES WITHIN THE GRI DOMAIN CONTACT DETAILS

Mr Vernon Gibbs-Halls

Environmental Officer, Eden District Municipality

Telephone: 044-803 1410 or 072 670 5108

Web Site Address: www.edendm.co.za

E-mail Address: gibbs@edendm.co.za

Dr Steve Du Toit, Head of Conservation

Wildlife & Environment Society of South Africa (Western Cape)

31 Progress Street

George 6529

Telephone: 044-8747097 or 076 282 7799

Web Site Address: http://www.wessa.org.za

E-mail Address: steve@wessa.co.za

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