What’s in a name – ZEMF to become ZPAAC,
Exactly three years ago a new forum was set up to advise and collaborate with the City on the management of the Zandvlei Estuary - ZEMF, the Zandvlei Estuary Management Forum. Three years later this body will cease to exist and will be replaced by ZPAAC, the Zandvlei Protected Area Advisory Committee. What is behind the change?
The new body comes into existence because 14 City nature reserves are in the process of getting significantly increased protection under a National Act – the Protected Areas Act – rather than only under Provincial legislation or a City Bylaw. There is a provision in the Act for Protected Area Advisory Committees (PAACs) to be established. The geographical area that was the concern of the ZEMF is virtually the same as the area of the Zandvlei Estuary Nature Reserve so in theory there would be two bodies doing virtually the same thing. That would makes no sense at all so that is why ZEMF has had its last meeting and will become a key part of ZPAAC.
Since the beginning of the year, the City has conducted a widely publicised process calling for organisations with an interest in Zandvlei to apply to be represented on the new ZPAAC body. The new ZPAAC, will meet for the first time in May. It will take over the task of providing advice to the City and provide a forum for constructive collaboration on Zandvlei Estuary Nature Reserve issues.
As we say goodbye to ZEMF it is appropriate to look back over the three years of its existence and summarise what has been achieved and what not.
What has been achieved?
Over the three years, one of the most important changes has been the way in which the various Zandvlei user groups have worked closely with the Nature Reserve manager and the team that controls the opening and closing of the mouth. In contrast to the frequent last minute panic phone calls in advance of events on the vlei, there is now very constructive, collaborative planning in advance. One measure of the improvement was that “the yachting community expresses considerable appreciation to the manager for the way he and his team have managed the vlei.” The “yachties” described it as “absolutely amazing, remarkable”.
After the Forum had focussed on issues around managing pondweed, attention was turned to the sediments building up near the mouth. A test was done to see if lowering the rubble weir during winter might remove some sediment. The results of surveys done before and after the weir-lowering indicated that there are encouraging changes. ZEMF therefor recommended that this approach be repeated next winter. Additionally, in early winter 2015 there will be some dredging of sediments at the mouth to remove a lot more of the sandbar. (There will be more details in the press about this shortly).
ZEMF has also assisted the various sections in the City to communicate better when there is a spill of sewage. This has resulted in faster responses to spills and less impact on the Zandvlei and those who live around it and use it.
What ZEMF did not manage to do during the three years was to persuade the City to replace the decades-old weed harvester with a machine that is more reliable and suited to the nature of the work required. What has been purchased is a grab-truck that will assist in removing the pondweed that has too often waited for weeks before it was cleared. There are however, rumours that a new weed harvester is to go onto the City’s Capex budget for the coming year!
City staff commented that there are a lot of places where advisory forums are not working. “If we look at why this one worked it is because there have been willing parties even if they have had disparate views. A lot was done that a single party would not have achieved. Everybody here has been able to look at the broader picture and work to single goal”. City staff also thanked civil society members of ZEMF saying that their collaboration had taken a lot of work off reserve managements’ shoulders.
The final word is that a sound foundation has been laid for the new ZPAAC Zandvlei Protected Area Advisory Committee to tackle the on-going issues and challenges of keeping Zandvlei healthy.