The end of Groenkloof Nature Reserve?

A plan for a massive development inside the Groenkloof Nature Reserve has surfaced.

It is said to provide for hotels, restaurants, a themed water park and other indoor and outdoor entertainment venues.

It is claimed that the development of a National Heritage Monument and South African Heroes’ Acre, would see the de-proclamation of 70 hectares of the pristine nationally proclaimed nature reserve.

However, when contacted for comment, Tshwane metro spokesman Lindela Mashigo said: “For now, the management at Groenkloof Nature Reserve is not aware of any official notices and/or requests for any of the mentioned developments/planned developments.”

However, DA councillor Siobhan Muller said there was a “proposed development on a Class 1 ridge in the Groenkloof Nature Reserve and the proposed de-proclamation of 70 hectares of undeveloped land.”

She said in an email that the advertisement for the development in the Government Gazette was being awaited.

“This should allow a period for comment for the public.

“When the advert appears it will be important for all interested and affected parties to comment within the time frame allowed,” Muller stressed.

She said she was still trying to obtain more information but that the following was already available currently:

– The development was for the National Heritage Monument and South African Heroes’ Acre, the brainchild of Dali Tambo and the Minister of Arts and Culture;

– They have identified a Class 1 rehabilitated and pristine ridge inside the Groenkloof Nature reserve, stretching from the Fountains entrance southwards towards the caravan park and north into the valley;

– The area totals 70 hectares of a national proclaimed Nature Reserve which they would de-proclaim and develop, with no SEA or EIA currently on the table or on the horizon. If this is not allowed they will de-proclaim the entire Nature Reserve;

– The development would include a visitors’ centre, hotels (note the plural) a monument, amphitheatre, 400 life size bronze sculptures, memorial gardens, outdoor entertainment and gathering areas, an auditorium, an African-themed water park, a bronze casting foundry and workshop, taxi and bus holding areas and restaurants;

– The proposal document stated that the area would also be used for celebrations – this would by implication include a highly increased noise factor and disturbance of the nature areas that remain; and

– The monument will include four towers 23m high. This will interfere with air space ( Waterkloof Air Force base).

“I have been informed the project is intended to commence in May,” Muller said.

She said while the concept was great, the location was a problem.

Muller said problems facing this proposed development included:

– The Groenkloof Nature Reserve was one of the oldest if no the oldest in the country;

– It was the most visited in Gauteng as it currently stood;

– The ridge was an undeveloped pristine and rehabilitated Class 1 Ridge and the run off ran into the Apies river;

– The fountains (water source) in this area still fed the city centre portion of Pretoria (City of Tshwane Metro Municipality);

– The ridge was dolomite – never a good site to develop and also fraught with problems;

– The ridge would immediately become a class 2 or 3 ridge and open the possibility/probability of further development on the other side;

– There was currently wildlife including giraffe and buck in the nature reserve which would be seriously affected by the proposed development and increase in noise levels;

– Petrol chemical run-off from the top of the ridge (parking and holding areas for all types of vehicles) would flow directly into the Apies river and affect the ground water;

– Option 1 was on the ridge while option 2 was in the valley should this proposal fail. The valley area (option 2) had a flooding problem when the Apies river flooded;

– There had been no public consultation for the proposed de-proclaiming of a proclaimed National Nature Reserve; and

– There had been no SEA or EIA – a prerequisite by national law (NEMA).

“Is there no alternative site which would be more environmentally acceptable, environmentally friendly and safer?” Muller asked.

She requested interested parties to keep an eye out for the gazetting of the plan.

Do you have more information about the story? Please send us an email to [email protected] or phone us on 083 625 4114.

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Stephané Bothma

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