Spring outing to Dlinza Forest, Eshowe

A fish farmer and four environmental lobby groups - including the Mtunzini Conservancy - have appealed the decision by the Department of Agriculture and Environmental Affairs to give Tronox (previously known as Exxaro) the go-ahead to mine Fairbreeze, south of Mtunzini. The Conservancy’s standpoint from the outset has been that Tronox should have carried out a full Scoping and Environmental Impact Assessment (S&EIA), and not a shortened Basic Assessment Report (BAR). The appeal process may take until the end of January 2013 and we await the Government's decision. Should the authorisation be upheld, we will consider what our rights are at that future stage.

Conservancy appeals
mining go-ahead

At the end of August the Mtunzini Conservancy, along with the Wildlands Conservation Trust, Mtunzini Fish Farm, WESSA KZN (Wildlife and Environment Society of SA, KZN branch) and Coastwatch KZN (a project of WESSA) and the Twinstreams Blue People Advocacy Group (TSBP) lodged appeals against the authorisation granted to Tronox to mine Fairbreeze.
The appeals highlighted numerous faults, inaccuracies and problems inherent in Tronox’s documentation as well as the Record of Decision (RoD) made by the DAEA, some of which are highlighted below:

  • Every one of the proposed mining areas is situated adjacent to, or in the midst of what the specialists have classified as areas having high biodiversity sensitivity or high conservation value, as is the Primary Wet Plant and its pipelines and powerlines. The Return Water Dam (RWD) will inundate a portion of highly sensitive forest. The Alternative RWD will inundate an area of moderately sensitive forest, but still with high conservation value.
  • The Mega Sabeka Residue Facility (MSRF) will obliterate the whole of wetland 08, which is 142ha in extent. The Valley Storage Residue Facility will completely inundate a highly sensitive and threatened remnant of swamp forest.
  • The Eskom powerlines will require the clearing of areas of swamp forest, and will present a high risk environment for bird collisions. The experts have noted that 'due to the high number of Red Data bird species that could potentially occur in this environment, the probability of bird collisions was rated as 'high'.
  • Orebody D and portions of Orebody A fall within the catchments of the dune slack wetland, which Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife has flagged as a highly threatened wetland type in KZN.
  • Mtunzini lies immediately to the north of the mining area. The coastline of the town has been maintained as a nature reserve, and the Siyaya Coastal Park and the Umlalazi Nature Reserve extend along the coast from the northern side of the town southwards below and immediately adjacent to the proposed mining area.
  • The Reserve is used for ecological recreation, birding and educational camps. It is adjacent to the highly successful and celebrated Twinstreams Educational Centre which has been at the forefront of environmental education in South Africa for the past 60 years.
  • If approved for mining, Mining Area C Extension will permit mining 24 hours a day within 100m of the most southern Mtunzini residences and the Xaxaza Caravan Park, which caters for residents, retired pensioners and holiday makers.
  • Mtunzini has been identified as uThungulu District Municipality’s most leisure-orientated tourist town. It accommodates 70% of all of the leisure tourists compared with Richards Bay, Empangeni and Eshowe. Its marketing strategy is that of beach and eco-tourism and it employed 200 persons in that sector in 2011, which sector forms the foundation of the municipal IDP.
  • The uMlalazi Municipality has identified tourism as its key economic driver through a Tourism Development Plan, and the social impact assessment compiled by Golder Associates in June 2011 has concluded that 'a negative impact by the proposed mining activities will have a cumulative negative impact on employment in the area' (p18, Golder report).
  • During the operational life of the mine, there will be 'minimal' (Golder p24) new employment opportunities (only 38) because mine workers from Hillendale will be transferred. The principal new employment benefit from the mine will be initial and temporary construction jobs.
  • The proximity of the mine to the town of Mtunzini will almost certainly result in significant tourism loss, destruction of the birding industry, dust, noise and visual intrusions, with possible further negative impacts from crime and traffic.

There are many more procedural and substantive defects which we have included in our appeal to the DAEA. They are too numerous to mention, but each defect should be enough to persuade the DAEA to instruct Tronox to carry out a S&EIA.


Town's sewerage crisis

Mtunzini's sewerage plant - designed to handle loads of 180kl per day - is currently receiving as much 280kl and at peak times, up to 320kl per day. The plant started regularly over-reaching its capacity three years ago.
The Ward 19 Ward Committee, chaired by Councillor Keith Powell, has been raising this issue at ward committee meetings for the past five years, and recently asked that uThungulu District Municipality, the authority responsible for the works, call a crisis meeting with all the key roleplayers to try and find a way to resolve the problem.
They finally met in September and looked at four key issues:

  • A site visit showed where an outflow pipe was discharging contaminated water into the forest and into the Umlalazi Nature Reserve. The uThungulu staff managing the facility are doing what they can – additional drying beds have been built and additional filters put in - but it is not enough, rendering the plant non-compliant with standards set by legislation.
  • While only 25% of Mtunzini properties are connected to the bulk sewer lines, the honeysucker deposits the sludge from the septic tanks of Mtunzini and surrounding areas (conservancy tanks from schools in Obanjeni) at the Mtunzini plant. In addition, Zini River Estate, as part of their agreement with uThungulu in terms of services, are allowed to continue to connect new houses into the system.
  • The Department of Water Affairs, after an assessment of all the municipal sewerage plants in KZN, asked Treasury for R232million to upgrade the plants that were most in need of rehabilitation - Mtunzini was not included as the study was done four years ago. They only received R75million over three years.
  • uThungulu receives R28million in revenue annually from its service tariffs (water and sanitation) but it has to spend R150million in operation and maintenance of these same services. It is therefore heavily reliant on grant funding, largely because of the free basic services it has to provide in terms of the Constitution.

The Department of Water Affairs is now aware of the severity of the situation and will issue a letter of compliance to uThungulu stating that there is a moratorium on any further development or connections into the system.
uThungulu, with the assistance of DWA, will continue to seek emergency funding from either government grants or loans, and, as a priority, will work on at least rehabilitating the current works so that it can handle current loads.
The next step is to seek funding to build an entirely new plant to ultimately service all of Mtunzini, plus planned growth, leaving the old package plant functioning only as a pumping station.
The Conservancy and the MRA, through Cllr Powell and the Ward Committee, will continue to monitor and push for a resolution to this crisis, as the ongoing daily pollution of our wetlands and streams within the reserve cannot be allowed to continue.
It was interesting to note that in response to a question from the Conservancy, uThungulu said they had received no request from Tronox about the discharge of their sewerage from the proposed Fairbreeze mining operations (600 permanent staff plus 1 000 or so temporary workers during construction) into our sewerage works. The BAR simply says that sewage will be discharged into the nearest licenced facility.
Tronox honeysuckers may have to travel a lot further than anticipated if they think they can drop their load at the Mtunzini sewerage works!

NEWS SNIPPETS

International
Beach Cleanup

More than than 100 young people from schools in uMlalazi braved the miserable weather on International Beach Cleanup Day and collected more than 622kgs of refuse between Mlalazi River mouth and Matikulu River mouth.
On the third Saturday of September each year, volunteers around the world take part in the world’s biggest coastal cleanup, known as International Coastal Cleanup Day.
The refuse collected along the Siyaya Coastal Park was weighed and analysed and was mostly connected with either recreational and shoreline litter left by beach goers and fishermen. This accounted for as much as 75 percent of the refuse collected. Dumping from ships accounted for most of the remaining rubbish.
The organisers expressed concern at the large number of alcohol bottles left on the beach.

The aim of the cleanup is
essentially to remove debris from the beaches but also to o collect valuable information about debris and
heighten public awareness of the causes of littering and dumping.
Conservation manager of Siyaya Coastal Park, Trueman Buthelezi, was pleased with the results despite the poor weather that the volunteers had to contend with and thanked the many sponsors for making the event such fun for everyone involved.

The event has been held internationally each year for over 25 years and it is now estimated that more than half a million people in more than 100 countries participate in the cleanup annually.

Perfect Spring Day
for Dlinza outing

About 20 Conservancy members had a perfect Spring day to explore normally out-of-bounds areas of Dlinza Forest before taking in the newly opened Butterfly Dome at the Fort Nongqayi Museum Village in Eshowe.
The walk had been preceded the night before with a talk and slide presentation by Sharon Louw, the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife Chief Research Technician for the area and the Conservancy was keen to see some examples of well-maintained grasslands on the edge of Dlinza Forest. We were not disappointed as some small pockets gave an impressive display of wild flowers for the many photographers. The birders were also not disappointed as a couple of Spotted Thrushes went about building a nest on the forest edge. Later on top of the aerial boardwalk tower we were treated to Hornbills and Turacos feasting on ripe figs just metres away.
Sadly the Butterfly Dome had been damaged during a recent storm and most of the butterflies had escaped but the dome has been repaired and we were able to see some butterflies and learn about their host plants.

DATES TO DIARISE

Our end of the year function will take place on Thursday 6 December at 18h00 at Twinstreams. It will be a bring and braai and we've invited
Cllr Keith Powell to give us
a longtime-resident's perspective on the early days of Mtunzini.


Architectural Plans
R20-m projects for Ongoye, Umlalazi
Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife has announced tourism facility developments and improvements at Umlalazi Nature Reserve and Ongoye Forest to the value of just under R20million.
These include the building of a new entrance gate and reception office as well as an events centre at Umlalazi Nature Reserve and six self-catering cottages, a restaurant and interpretive centre on the western edge of Ongoye Forest.
The present boom gate and reception at Umlalazi will be demolished to make way for a Gate House and Reception/Info office with curio shop and offices for the conservation officer and camp manager.
The old round house above the parking at the lagoon will be razed and replaced with a 95sqm events facility in rondavel shape with a brick wall 75cm high and canvas roll ups to the rafters.
It will look out onto timber decking and will include new ablution facilities. The old swimming pool will be restored to new and a kiosk with bar, lounge and deck will be built adjacent to it.
Development at Ongoye has been in the pipeline since 2006 and emerges from concerns that the Mzimela Tribal Authority who are the immediate neighbours of the forest receive little or no benefits from it.
The development of Ongoye as a tourist destination will give a much needed boost to the area and will also link to other nearby historical places of interest such as King Shaka's capital at KwaBulawayo, Mandawe Cross and Shakaland.
The site chosen for three loft-units and three two-bedroom units is a sloping grassland overlooking a swamp forest and with views above the trees to the coast.
The gateway to the forest will be just off the P240 where the road bisects the western corner of the forest. It was chosen because of the good access road and the site which provides spectacular views to the coast and inland towards the Mhlatuze River valley.
Its impact on the forest is expected to be minimal.

Events facility for Umlalazi Nature Reserve.

New entrance for Umlalazi Nature Reserve.

Plans for a restaurant at Ongoye Forest.

Mtunzini Conservancy (Association incorporated under Section 21)
Reg. no. 2007/006455/08 and having Section 18A status in terms of the Income Tax Act.
PO BOX 2, MTUNZINI - Tel: 082 936 2370 or 035 340 2898 - email: satcom@satcom.co.za/jbchedz@global.co.za


Chairperson: Barbara Chedzey; Vice-chairperson: Doggy Kewley; Secretary: Neil Evans; Treasurer: Barbara Kewley