In thinking and writing about this wonderful opportunity presented to us as residents of The Garden Route, I consciously avoid using terms like ‘economic development zone’ and ‘integrated spatial framework’.
Words like these tend to dehumanise us, after all The Garden Route is a special place where people are living, and economics is only one aspect, albeit an important one, of how we live our lives.
Located at the heart of the proposed Southern Cape Corridor (S.C.C.), we have the family, normal people like you and I, living our lives of hope, love, laughter and tears. It is these people who will earn and spend, plan and invest, build and use the S.C.C., and without them to drive it forward, it will remain a phantom white elephant. Population numbers show that the region has grown consistently at 5% + for the past six years. First hand experience in the towns and cities of the region bear witness to this phenomenal expansion. From the road engineering projects outside Stilbaai through Albertinia, past the mega township of De Almeida with its fantastic views of Mossel Bay, to George, surrounded by plantations and mountain waterfalls, and ending in the shaded sanctuary of Wilderness, all locations are colourful, vibrant and bustling with activity and endeavour. Our families and people must be kept at the root and heart of the development of our S.C.C.
People and families need the full range of service providers to ease the challenges of modern day living, from gyms to dentists, from shops to petrol stations. Children and teenagers need schools, playing fields, entertainment and libraries, and we all need the security of knowing we have access to affordable, qualified healthcare when required. Upgraded and extended transport systems and infrastructure are already needed to move and store the increasing volumes of food, building materials, equipment and produced goods coming into and being prepared for export from the region. Both the airport and seaport still offer room for expansion and better utilisation in this regard.
Then of course, all of our activities depend on reliable supplies of water, electricity and other essential utilities. Today, universal access to an IT network is almost considered as a primary service. This is illustrated by the fact that, for the past decade, all new cities planned and built in the middle and far east have come standard with digital / wifi networks for IT and social media connectivity. Underpinning all of the above, are a blend and balance of economies. The most significant in terms of growth and development opportunities for our S.C.C., are the following:
- Engineering, Medium Industry and Construction
- Logistics incl warehousing for road, rail and sea
- Agriculture, agri-processing and value-adds
- Timber, manufacture and value-adds
- Energy generation and provision incl hydro, wind and solar
Attracting the requisite capital and investment to the Garden Route for application to our S.C.C. will require, as a minimum, the full buy-in of the existing residents of all the towns to be connected by the corridor. Our people will prove to be the best brand ambassadors and strategic marketeers for this golden opportunity. Read The Gremlin next week for exciting ideas.
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