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Ease 4x4 beach ban - experts

2005-01-31 22:57

Dries Liebenberg

This was the message on Monday from various scientists, conservation and fishing institutions to members of parliament's portfolio committee on environmental affairs and tourism.

Members of the national and provincial portfolio committees gathered in Durban to investigate the economic impact of the beach embargo.

The Oceanographic Research Institute, the Ezemvelo-KZN Wildlife, provincial coastline management committee and provincial tourism body are all in favour of lifting the embargo on certain stretches of coastline.

Culture and Tourism MEC Narend Singh said KwaZulu-Natal already had pleaded the case with Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk.

Van Schalkwyk's predecessor, Valli Moosa, implemented the ban in 2001.

Funds spent on impact studies

KwaZulu-Natal was probably hit the hardest of all provinces thanks to its local authorities' ability to execute the ban, politicians heard.

Warnings were issued that the beach ban had driven 4x4 owners to other sensitive spots such as the Drakensberg.

The government's sudden decision in April last year to ban 4x4 driving on beaches altogether - there had been certain stretches exempt from the legislation previously - caused a breach in trust with 4x4 drivers, said South Africa Shore Angling, after considerable funds were spent on impact studies.

Research undertaken by the oceanographic institute in 2001, when the ban came under discussion, indicated that 42% of KwaZulu-Natal's roughly 600km of coastline could handle traffic and come under consideration for permits, said Professor Rudy van der Elst.

Not on the cards at the moment

The model that the institute developed to determine such areas was seen as one of the best in the world, he said.

Van Schalkwyk's spokesperson, Riaan Aucamp, said the minister felt strongly about the ban, and the limited lifting of the ban on certain beaches was not on the cards at the moment.

The only concession Van Schalkwyk made other than allowing the vehicles of the disabled on beaches and 4x4s during fishing competitions was authorising an investigation by the department into the impact of the ban on St Lucia, said Aucamp.


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