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This biodiversity stewardship project aims to provide formal conservation protection for the area of the Rhenosterspruit Nature Conservancy, and beyond. 

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Report of the Acting Chair: AGM: August 2013

Report of the Acting Chair:  AGM:  August 2013



Welcome to 26th AGM of the Conservancy.  That milestone represents a considerable period of consistent activity over many years to hold the line for conservation in the face of sometimes rampant development onslaughts.

RNC has been in a holding pattern, maintenance, over the past year or so for two important reasons  -  the momentum that is being taken up by the Crocodile River Reserve (CRR) but also the human resource constraints.  More of that later.


Context

To put some context around the 27 years of the Conservancy for those who have come more recently into its orbit.  The Conservancy began in 1987 as a constructive response to the threat of mass urbanisation of the area bounded by the N14, R511 and the Jukskei/Crocodile rivers.   Initially, the conservancy was a smaller area, about half its present size, and called the Kareebosrand Conservancy, in honour of our ubiquitous indigenous tree. 

Helen Duigan of Hills and Dales was a driving force, with others in the areas east of the Juskskei River, in establishing the conservancy in 1987 and has remained in that often uncomfortable and stressful position ever since, even since standing down as Chair in 2011.

By the early 1990s the desire for community-based conservation had spread the west of the Jukskei-Crocodile and north into Hennops and Schurveberg and the Conservancy grew in size and outreach.   Further threats of low-cost housing and mass expropriation of our properties by a very unscrupulous developer in the late 1990s acted as a catalyst to grow the local conservation lobby and involve even more people and their properties.  And the RNC took its current shape and size of about 10 000ha.  The developer, a Belgian, fled the country before he could be arrested for smuggling.

Many of you know this history, but I repeat it to illustrate the fact that our status as a conservancy  -  a voluntary association of landowners and residents who wish to conserve the nature and character of this precious area  - has been a hard-won initiative that doesn’t allow for complacency.  And takes considerable energy that isn’t often all that visible.

And that task is never done.  The RNC has tackled close to 30 development applications in and immediately around the conservancy over the past eight years or so.  In some, this vigorous defence of what is most precious has carried the day.  In others, not.  

Community-based, voluntary  conservation, as represented by the RNC, is demanding, ever-vigilant and resource intense.  Particularly at times when developers weave their spells to attract buyers to “own your piece of the countryside and enjoy full rural living without the hassle, etc, etc.”

But the rewards of taking on this sacred task is this Gem of a Place called Rhenosterspruit Nature Conservancy.

Current year

The year under review has been a quiet one.  As I said, we went into a holding pattern, maintenance mode, due to the increasing space and resources being taken up by the CRR.  

Four ex-members of RNC Committees of the past currently serve on the CRR Committee.  In addition, two members of the current committee serve on Just Environmental Action (JEA), a lobby for appropriate town planning and integrated conservation across Gauteng.  And two serve on the Magaliesberg Biosphere Initiative Group which is lobbying for the greater Magaliesberg and surrounding buffer areas, including the RNC, to be declared a UNESCO Biosphere.  This is close to becoming a reality  -  if some of the official bodies who need to align themselves with this get their act together.

Five meetings of the rather small RNC Committee were held since the last AGM and Mercia Komen and Helen Duigan were co-opted to help out.  


Development

o    The ongoing threats and challenges to the conservancy did not stop.  During the year we signed up as I&APs and/or gave comment on six developments in and around the conservancy. 
o    In addition, there was a constant flow of requests for advice and/or assistance, locally from Pretoria and the East Rand and further afield from KZN and W Cape.
o    The RNC continued to chip away at the non-compliance of the Blair Atholl development with its Record of Decision.  This is a long involved issue with, among other things, the lack of any development on 7 Rhenosterspruit a glaring neglect.
o    Mountain View aero estate proposed development was also consistently questioned and tested by the Garbetts on behalf of the RNC.  The Garbetts also went to considerable pains to challenge the proposed Pelindaba Smelter, by attending the public hearings and offering detailed and researched input to illustrate the threat it holds to a considerable area around the site. 
o    The RNC also engaged with both Johannesburg Water and the Dept of Water Affairs concerning damaging sewerage spillages from the Northern Sewerage Works into the Jukskei.  Leaks and illegal discharges happen dozens of times in a year.  We just don’t get to hear of them until a big one happens  -  as happened late last year.

Outreach


o    Events:  Four held.  Very successful.  Made over R2 500 profit.  Thanks to Dalene van der Merwe and Alpha Greeff (Hennops).
o    Ride the Rhenoster.  Again, small but successful.  Cleared over R6 000.
o    Snares hunt in Vlakfontein.
o    Three RNC Committee members attended the Grasslands Forum late last year.

Communication


Veldtalk.  E-zine continues to draw very positive comment.  Goes to 500 local and 1 000 more around the country. 

Media.  Good relations with several journalists to continue to phone for comment on relevant issues.

Membership

18 people in all renewed their membership in the current year.  This is much appreciated because we did not do the normal invoicing timeously.

Relationship with CRR

This is being clarified and is likely to result in a closer partnership and mutual support between the RNC and CRR.


Brand

The Conservancy has an established brand, through:
o    maintaining a consistent presence across the NW sector of Gauteng
o    co-founding GSCA and NACSSA
o    Taking on inappropriate development privately and in the glare of publicity (BA)
o    Media presence
o    Veldtalk’s extensive circulation
o    the conservancy’s website
o    a Facebook page

The need to maintain this goodwill and national support is vital.

Year ahead

We need more human resource support - on the committee and in terms of membership fees.  This year will be a critical one for RNC and CRR as the latter gradually takes shape and legal standing.


Anthony Duigan
25 Aug 2013