Eric’s 50-year dream cast in bio­di­verse coun­try­side

Sunday Tribune - - METRO - MYR­TLE RYAN myr­[email protected]

FIFTY years ago, Eric Macken­zie’s friends scoffed when he de­cided on a unique form of prop­erty de­vel­op­ment – to sell shares to the pub­lic in a na­ture re­serve, where they could build a home.

“Eric was an en­tre­pre­neur, and he put a lot of thought into this,” said his wife, Pa­tri­cia (Pat), adding that an ar­ti­cle in the Sun­day Tribune of Au­gust 3, 1969, by re­porter Nancy Gar­diner, had set the sales ball rolling.

Mbona Moun­tain Es­tate as it was then known, on Kark­loof Road, be­came the first such pri­vate es­tate in South Africa. Now known as Mbona Pri­vate Na­ture Re­serve, it re­cently be­came the first to be pro­claimed within the Bio­di­ver­sity Ste­ward­ship Pro­gramme. The ti­tle deeds are en­dorsed, mak­ing share­holder in­vest­ments fully pro­tected; and no fu­ture de­vel­op­ment will be al­lowed with­out the ap­proval of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.

Macken­zie, a Cra­mond farmer, who grew tea, rice, and tim­ber, was partly crip­pled in an ac­ci­dent while play­ing polo, but this had not af­fected his ac­tive mind. He bought the 354 hectare Mbona farm ad­join­ing the 325ha Hol­beck farm, which he al­ready owned, with the in­ten­tion of set­ting down plan­ta­tions, but when he found the land had a high wa­ter ta­ble, it trig­gered his en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist side.

How about dams, stocked with trout, where peo­ple could swim or sail?

Na­ture-lov­ing, con­ser­va­tion­minded city dwellers could es­cape their busy lives amid in­dige­nous forests, beau­ti­ful coun­try­side filled with flora and fauna, with long walks, horse-rid­ing, and game.

“It had to be a prop­erty that would be well man­aged from a con­ser­va­tion point of view, and be there for gen­er­a­tions to come,” said Pat.

Eric’s sons Drum­mond and Michael plot­ted routes for roads across the empty grass­lands and hills, and pegged out the sites for sev­eral dams.

One hun­dred shares at R5 000 each were of­fered. Eric died in 1977, but Pat (now Hut­ton) kept their shared dream alive. With the as­sis­tance of the board and share­hold­ers, Mbona has be­come a much loved re­serve, where the beauty of mist-belt for­est and grass­lands can be en­joyed by share­hold­ers and their fam­i­lies. Sit on a seat named for Eric, or one on Mbona Hill (named for con­ser­va­tion­ist Ian Player) and take in the spec­tac­u­lar views which in­spired it all half a cen­tury ago.

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