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Montagu locals watching over nature reserves

Montagu Mountain Reserve

Jimbo Smith climbing at Joe’s Garage in the Montagu Mountain Reserve.

A new body has been elected which will advise the Langeberg Municipality on matters regarding nature reserves within the Langeberg, including the Montagu Mountain Reserve and Dassieshoek.

The members of the Langeberg Protected Areas Advisory Committee (PAAC) were chosen in accordance with the National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act.

Previously, the Montagu Mountain Reserve Advisory Board advised the municipality on matters regarding the reserve, but this body was dissolved in August last year (“Mountain Reserve ‘in decline’”, Breede River Gazette, 28 August 2012).

According to Ron Brunings, who served on the Montagu Mountain Reserve Advisory Board, its official term ended in 2008 but the board continued its duties because a new board was never elected. He said the reason why the board was dissolved is because local authorities no longer “heeded its advice”. Concern for the Montagu Mountain Reserve was once again raised by a resident at the Montagu Mass Meeting on 17 April (“Montagu demands more”, Breede River Gazette, 23 April 2013).

Soyisile Mokweni, manager of the Langeberg Municipality, said the Protected Areas Advisory Committee will play a “crucial role” in facilitating a participatory form of monitoring and management planning that reflects the needs and concerns of the Langeberg communities. “They will participate voluntarily to encourage a sense of ownership of our natural and cultural heritage.”

Each member will serve for two years. The board will meet once every three months and will be expected to submit a copy of the minutes for each meeting and a full report once a year to the Langeberg Municipality, in which issues and recommendations that require attention will be highlighted.

The members of the board are Dr Colin Johnson (Montagu), Pattie van Dyk (Montagu), Balbina Hurtler (Robertson), Piet van Zyl (Vrolijkheid Nature Reserve), Adriaan J. Louw (Bonnievale), Tim Banda (Montagu), Stephen P. Jones (Robertson).

Piet van Zyl, manager of the Vrolijkheid Nature Reserve, said the Langeberg Protected Areas Advisory Committee will have its first meeting on Thursday 16 May where priorities for the nature reserves will be identified.

Mareletta van Zyl-Wohlfarter, chairperson of the Montagu Ashton Tourism Association (MATA), welcomed the newly-formed board as the Montagu community has been waiting “a long time” for election of the new board. She, however, expressed concern that the PAAC has to advise on the entire Langeberg as apposed to only the Montagu Mountain Reserve, which the Montagu Mountain Reserve Advisory Board previously had to advise on.

The functions of the Committee include:

  • Act as a forum for discussing relevant protected areas issues from the biodiversity management and a community participation perspective.
  • Play a role in educating the surrounding communities and various interests groups about the importance of preservation, protection and management of natural resources.
  • Monitor the effectiveness of reserve management, policies and guidelines.
  • Make recommendations on how Langeberg Municipality can improve programmes, practices and policies.
  • Promote the Integration of conservation activities within Protected Areas with those of surrounding areas.
  • Provide input into relevant Langeberg Municipal policies, management plans and conservation planning frameworks.
  • Monitor the implementation of management plans with respect to relevant Protected Areas.
  • Facilitate links between Langeberg Municipality the Cape Winelands District Municipality (CWDM) and Local Economic Development (LED) initiatives.
  • Facilitate the mobilisation of the necessary resources from other spheres of government , NGOs, donors and the public sector in order to strengthen LED initiatives.
  • Convene each quarter and review progress made by the protected area management in implementation of the management plans.
  • Network with existing local forums that support the goals and objectives of the nature reserve, e.g Water User Associations, Fire Protection Associations, other conservation NGOs, e.g. Botanical Society.

Source:  Bolandgazette.co.za

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