During our campaign to inform the Ward 2 community of the intent by TWKM to alienate a portion of the Commonage (Erf # 595), we have tried to separate the undoubted benefits of the fruit farming venture from what we believe to be the unnecessary and illegal sale of the land itself. The fruit farming venture can proceed independently by leasing the land. In fact, it is our considered opinion that the venture would be more viable under a lease arrangement.
We highlight below the responses as received in respect of the various and extensive comments submitted by the community in response to the series of articles published by the Ward 2 Forum on the subject. The topics and points raised have, for ease of reference, been categorised into separate headings:
- Spraying of fruit trees with chemicals
Due to the proximity of the proposed fruit farming development to residential areas, sufferers of respiratory ailments such as hay fever and Asthma have expressed concern that spraying of the fruit trees may cause increased problems because of the closer proximity to Greyton, in particular when the wind is from the southeast.
The export-driven fruit industry is managed with a high level of monitoring and control. However, an EIA will have to examine the situation and if it considered that the negative impact of spraying on human health is significant, mitigation measures will have to be considered.
- River pollution
The Sonderend River is known to have unacceptably high pollution levels at times, associated with the lack of municipal control of the effluent from both the Genadendal and Greyton sewage facilities. It is hoped that a joint venture between Ward 2 and TWKM will resolve this situation before it becomes too serious. The value of the farming businesses downstream from us is far too important to allow this to continue, but the measures needed for improvement are largely dependent on Government funding and the inclination from TWKM.
- Loss of Renosterveld
Concern for Renosterveld areas in the Greyton Commonage has been expressed. Because it occurs in fertile clay-rich soils, the majority of the area has been transformed over the years to agriculture. Less than 2% of the original extent is now formerly conserved. Renowned for spring flower displays, it often has a high grass content, hence its value for grazing.
As part of the EIA, the quality of the Renosterveld areas will be assessed, together with a plan to mitigate further degradation, and possibly to conserve some areas. Cape-Nature and the Overberg Lowlands Conservation Trust will be asked to contribute to this process.
- Employment opportunities
Various views have been taken of the number of employees required to operate a typical fruit farm. An important aspect of the project is the potential employment in particular of local workers. Hortgro, an organisation within the deciduous fruit industry, which is responsible for production, markets and transformation, publishes data for the industry; for example for 2014, the average number of employees per hectare was 1.17 for apple farms and 1.05 for pear farms. The figures are the total permanent equivalent, include seasonal workers. Dependents are said to average an additional 400%.
The financial and social benefits of using as much local labour as possible, which has been confirmed by the Consortium, are very evident in terms of minimising the possibility of having to build houses on the farm, and to provide municipal services.
It is not clear how the expectations of the Ward 2 community will match those of the Consortium.
- Employee training and development
It is understood in the fruit farming industry that extensive training and development of employees is a major requirement, so that, although local employees are preferred, it is not always possible to guarantee sufficient numbers when they are required.
For this project to be really successful, training and mentoring are considered prime requirements. Some local agricultural educational facility may be considered and discussed as part of the EIA.
This item should be considered an essential element in the PROPOSALS FOR THE PROJECT.
- Project funding
The original prospectus states that no Government funding of the project would be required, except for services of the Land Bank. Additional funds could be available from the Department of Agriculture.
- Vigne Legacy – Greyton Commonage
It is clear from our research and documentation obtained from various sources that the Greyton Commonage was intended to be land for the use of all and that the land was never to be alienated. http://ward2forum.org/vigne-legacy-greyton-commonage-report-2016-015/#comment-28. It is the view of W2F that the veracity of the Vigne Legacy and intent is not in dispute and that the onus now remains with TWKM to prove the opposite.
Furthermore we are of the view that the Local Authority does not have the right?? to negotiate any alienation of the remainder of Erf 595.
- Rural Development – Greyton Infrastructure
Concern was expressed by many about the current status quo in respect of the Greyton Infrastructure and in particular the road system that would have to cater for additional agricultural and large vehicular traffic, which will be utilising the R 406 through Greyton. This will be addressed in the EIA.
- Availability of Water from the Breede-Gouritz Water Management Area (WMA)
It is a known fact that no “free” water is available in the Sonderend River, as all available water has already been allocated to existing farms in the Water Catchment Area. The only water still available would have to be “procured” from existing farms and transferred to the new proposed farming entity that is hoping to develop portion of Erf 595 as a fruit farm. The transfer of water rights, if there are any available, is done by the Dept of Water Affairs in conjunction with the WMA. However, if water is available and motivation good, this could potentially be negotiated between the relevant parties.
- Flooding of the project area
The Engineering Report for the Greyton Commonage Spatial Framework Plan (June 2000) refers to the absence of flood line data for the Gobos and Sonderend Rivers in the area of the project. It was recommended that a detailed study should be carried out in order to identify areas suitable for the construction of habitable structures. It was also suggested that minor earth works may be necessary to control the routing of flood waters.
It was stated that agricultural, recreational and sporting activities could be carried out below the 1:100 flood lines, based on their understanding of the probable position of these flood lines.
The possible failure of the category 3 Theewaterskloof Dam was also considered. The inundated area would be expected to cover a wider area than the 1:100 flood lines, but the risk of such failure was stated to be far lower than the 1:100 return period – “it is in fact extremely low and unlikely”.
- Financial failure of registered owners of ‘Newco’
Unfortunately the possible failure of the proposed new business has to be considered as it may lead to the sale of assets of the business, such as the land itself, the subsequent development of which could be against the interests and expectations of the community. This could not occur if the land ownership is retained by TWKM, and it is leased to the business.
This is an ADDITIONAL OBJECTION AGAINST ALIENATION OF THE PORTION OF ERF 595.
- Alternative business partners
The proposals made by us originated in the reality of Ward 2, where the whole community must benefit from a significant opportunity such as this project. Farm 39 has sufficient ‘spare’ land suitable for fruit farming, also adequate water rights. Within this community and the Consortium there should be sufficient labour with the required experience and skills, coupled with training and mentoring, to minimise the need for workers from outside the local area.
Because of our understanding that the elements of a successful business were already available in the area, we have not looked at alternative business models or constituent elements. However, it must be up to all the parties concerned to discuss and negotiate the way forward. Their success will undoubtedly lead to other such ventures.
We will keep you informed.
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Ward 2 Forum Team