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Does the Garden Route really need another mega golf estate?
The Cape Windlass Environmental Action group – perhaps fortified by the recent Cape High Court judgment against the Arabella estate (see noseweek edition22) – has lodged a challenge in the same court against the proposed LagoonBay golf estate near George. Windlass is asking the court to set aside a decision made on 5 May last year by then Western Cape Environment Minister Pierre Uys to allow the gigantic development to go ahead. LagoonBay Lifestyle Estate (Pty) Ltd and the George municipality are parties to the proceedings.
The proposed development is in the middle of an area suffering its worst drought in 50 years.
The proposed development is at Hoogekraal, between Glentana and Herold’s Bay, some 15km from George – i.e. in the middle of an area suffering its worst drought in 50 years. LagoonBay would be bordered by the Maalgate river and lagoon to the east, and the beaches of Glentana to the west. To the south, says the website, is “the mighty Indian Ocean, super highway of migratory whales and dolphins”.
The website boasts that the development will see “two championship golf courses nestled comfortably in one of only six Floral Kingdoms of the world”, both Retief Goosen signature courses. “Retief proudly endorses LagoonBay as his first signature development.”
The scale of the thing, for anyone who knows the tenuous and fragile resources of the area, is outlandish. LagoonBay will cover over 800 hectares, comprising two 18-hole golf courses and 866 single-residence plots in village clusters, 320 single-title and/or fractional-title lodges, and 150 single-title and/or timeshare apartments (plus all the roads required). Throw in a private nature reserve and the “Hoogekraal Village Centre”. In season, an influx of 4,000-5,000 people is expected.
LagoonBay will require a massive five million litres per day
The environmental objections centre on the impacts on social and environmental resources, with water a key issue. LagoonBay, says Windlass, will require a massive five million litres per day – in a notoriously drought-prone area where the only constant source of water is treated sewage from the municipal sewage works. As the objectors point out, that much water would sustain 100,000 people leading lifestyles that require 50 litres per day (which noseweek understands is more than present drought restrictions in the area allow per person per day).
Then there are the pristine beaches, presently accessible only on foot, between Glentana and the Maalgate River, which Windlass would like to see protected from the anticipated massive influx of visitors. A huge strain would be placed on resources, starting with a gigantic building site to which workers would be brought daily from as far afield as Mossel Bay. Apparently 30-35 farmworkers and their families will have to be resettled, and the nearby villages of Glentana and Outeniquastrand will be completely dwarfed.
Quite plainly, the minister simply ignored the serious social and environmental impacts that would result.
The minister, says Windlass, was not in possession of sufficient information to reach an informed decision, and didn’t apply his mind to the matter. There is no evidence that alternatives were assessed. Quite plainly, the minister simply ignored the serious social and environmental impacts that would result. Never mind that the George Spatial Development Framework declares that “further golf and other similar estates outside of existing urban settlements shall be discouraged”.
Windlass argues that there is good reason to suppose that the minister placed undue emphasis on “social upliftment”: imposing a condition that the development company contribute 2.5% of its turnover on sales to a social upliftment initiative (the Hoogekraal Trust) was ultra vires (beyond his powers) – and irrelevant to the real issues.
LagoonBay Lifestyle Estate is a father-and-son team from Pretoria, Thys and Werner Roux, and in the main their fellow directors aren’t high-profile people – Cheslyn Mostert, Theunis Bosch and Jacobus van Staden. But then there are Mathews Phosa, Treasurer General of the ANC and serial company director, and former South African ambassador to the US, Franklin Sonn, the company’s non-executive chairman. The developers have also drummed up support from the likes of Western Cape judges Essop Moosa and Nathan Erasmus – and the ubiquitous Alan Boesak.
The forum told Uys: “Don’t allow those who enjoyed the benefits of apartheid to take the food out of our children’s mouths.”
The objectors claim that the developers facilitated the creation of the George Leadership Forum (GLF), which, together with representatives from the Hoogekraal community, the George branch of the ANC, and the “Ex-Political Prisoners Committee”, made impassioned pleas to Uys to allow the development to go ahead.
Apparently the forum told Uys: “Don’t allow those who enjoyed the benefits of apartheid to take the food out of our children’s mouths.”
The objectors say that, shortly after Uys took office, the developers began pushing him to give approval. In an August 2008 letter they claimed there would be great benefits to the “wider community”, with R100m going to the Hoogekraal Trust at the outset, and R10m to R15m per year after that “in perpetuity” (the objectors claim these figures are wildly inflated).
On 5 May Minister Uys gave authorisation, reversing a negative decision taken in November 2008 by the local director of integrated environmental management, made after three experts had concluded that the development would cause irreversible damage.
The ANC, of course, lost the Western Cape in the April elections, and the LagoonBay decision was one of Uys’s last before leaving office on 6 May.
Shortly before going to press, noseweek heard that serious intimidation had started – threatening phone calls to objectors, incidents of arson, and a threat to homeowners of a reign of terror in Glentana over the holiday season. A statement from the George Leadership Forum probably didn’t help: “The greenies from Glentana and their lawyers are taking the bread out of the mouths of the children of the poor and unemployed.” Wonder how the luminaries backing the project, not to mention financier RMB, feel about being associated with this?
Taken from the January 2010 edition of NoseWeek