Special committee to rebuild Garden Route
Since the Garden Route fires of June, many people and organisations have come to the aid of those affected and have initiated projects to help the area get back on its feet.
As we build a more prosperous and resilient Garden Route, it is important for all of our initiatives to be coordinated so that maximum impact can be achieved.
To address this, I met with the mayors of Eden District and Knysna and Bitou municipalities yesterday and we jointly agreed to the establishment of the Garden Route Rebuild Committee. This committee will develop a longterm renewal plan, consider project proposals and ensure that they are adequately funded. The committee will include the province, Eden, Knysna, and Bitou municipalities, representatives of the major private donors, and NGOs. It will meet on a weekly basis and provide feedback to the community on progress with projects.
Work groups have been established that will design and implement projects related to the following areas:
Humanitarian assistance, including further trauma counselling and assistance in accessing government grants and services.
Reconstruction, including the development of a framework that will ensure all new buildings are more resilient to disasters, and the development of a system to fast-track building approvals. This work group will also develop temporary housing solutions.
Environmental management, which will address slope stabilisation and alien eradication.
Business support, for businesses in distress and to support the establishment of new businesses that can build on the opportunities that have arisen from the disaster.
Skills development, including the provision of construction skills for local people.
Much of this work is urgent. At the same time, a long-term renewal strategy will be developed that will result in legacy projects aimed at changing the nature of our economy and improving the sustainability of our residences and our environment.
Some work groups have already met and are making progress. The infrastructure workgroup, which is chaired by Eden District municipality, has completed its preliminary assessment of the damage to public infrastructure, which, once verified by national government, will form the basis for disaster management funding applications.
The environmental management work group has commissioned surveys of the burn scar to identify slopes at high risk of erosion and trees in danger of falling next to roads. The results will be available shortly and will assist the work group to prioritise areas requiring urgent intervention. The group includes members from Knysna and Bitou municipalities, Southern Cape Fire Protection Association, SANParks, CapeNature, Kishugu (a public benefit organisation), CSIR, Brenton Blue Trust, Western Heads Goukamma Conservancy, Southern Cape Landowners Initiative, and the national Departments of Forestry and of Environmental Affairs.
The same approach will be applied to the other work groups, which will draw in public officials, NGOs, business representatives and/ or experts, depending on the focus of the work group. The Garden Route is rich with ideas and expertise, and by harnessing our local talent and working together we can create a more prosperous and resilient Garden Route.
The meeting also discussed the many donations that have been received. Eden District has received R995 000, Knysna R1.3million (with another R2-million expected soon), and Bitou R272 000. This money will only be spent as the work groups identify and receive committee approval for projects. It is expected that the first projects undertaken with donated funds will commence in the next two weeks. Until now, municipalities have been providing support using their existing budgets.
The bulk of the donations has been given to public benefit organisations, and the committee is requesting these organisations to indicate what they have received and the purposes for which it was intended. We would like to include these organisations in the committee’s overall planning and implementation processes so that the donations can be aligned to where the needs are. Organisations are asked to contact Cabral Wicht at cabral.wicht@westerncape. gov.za.
The Garden Route Rebuild Committee will report on further progress made. – Alan Winde, Western Cape minister of economic opportunities
Ed note: Knysna-Plett Herald has been assured by the Knysna municipality that readers could expect a full report on donations, financial grants and the way forward next week.
Fire chief Clinton Manuel also committed to present his final fire report soon.