The contentious once-off R10 000 riparian levy to safeguard the spit-dune as proposed by the St Francis Bay Riparian Home Owners Association, was not supported by Kouga Council during a Special Council meeting on Friday 29 June 2012.
This proposed once off riparian levy has evoked similar community actions and re-actions as two of its fore-runners to save beach properties in St Francis Bay, i.e.
• The Huge groyne that the former mayor of St Francis, Jean Chaput, proposed to stop the beach erosion; and
• The even more costly Tonkin-scheme by which sand bags were to be deposited off shore to stop beach erosion and it being funded by all St Francis property owners by means of considerable monthly payments for a 20 year period;
Strengthening the spit-dune and thus preventing the total collapse of the St Francis canal system, is a view shared by the total St Francis community. The major issues are, however, the methodology to be used and the ways of funding such a huge project.
The present initiative of the St Francis Bay Riparian Home Owners Association is to strengthen the spit by means of repairing the present rock revetments, the construction of more rock revetments and a service road on top of the spit. To enable the SFB RHOA to fund this they needed an amount of R4.5 to R5 million. This entailed that each riparian owner has to contribute a once off charge of R10 000 and Kouga Municipality was asked to raise the levies.
Here follows a brief synopsis of the present saga:
• The RHOA, at their December 2011 AGM, obtained a majority vote to table their proposal to Kouga Council. Due to the apparent deterioration of the spit they requested to implement the once-off R10 000 levy from each riparian owner with immediate effect from February 2012.
• During the January 2012 Council meeting it was unanimously decided by Council not to approve the recommendation immediately, but to obtain a legal opinion especially with regards to the following two issues :The legality of instituting such a levy in mid-year i.e. if no budgetary provision was made for it; and
Whether the 50% + 1 requirement applied in this case and how a majority vote was to be determined.
• A huge debate was raging since the RHOA AGM, when their proposal was announced in December 2011, up to the present moment with supporters of the FOR and AGAINST voicing their opinions in local and national media.
• The Democratic Alliance twice tried to convene meetings with leaders of both groups and the senior management of Kouga in an effort to find common ground. The first meeting was cancelled at the very last minute when the RHOA pulled out.
A second more successful meeting was arranged and although the opposite sides differed vehemently, it was jointly decided to ask Kouga Municipality to obtain legal opinion esp. on the two issues of inclusion in a budget or not and secondly the issue of the 50% +1 statutory requirement.
• Although Kouga Municipality agreed to obtain a legal opinion the Administration was too slow in obtaining such an opinion and the RHOA decided to get a ruling of the High Court on the issue.
• The ruling of the High Court on 25 May 2012 obliged Council to include an amount of R4.5 m in their budget to effect the construction and repair of rock revetments on the spit. Unfortunately the all important issue of the 50% +1 for or against the proposal was not included in this ruling.
• Furthermore it was recommended to advertise this intention on 28 May 2012 and it was open for public comment and objections for a period of 30 days.
• No less than 175 riparian owners responded as follows :
65 supported the RHOA proposal
3 more supported it with reservations
107 did not support the proposal
Most of those for the proposal merely signed a standard format statement with no additional motivation, whilst those against mostly added reasons for their non-support.
• Council unanimously resolved that against the backdrop of the very many owners who did not support the proposal, and in most cases rendered comprehensive motivations for their choice, not to support the recommendation of the RHOA. Council did resolve to :
Exclude the spit reconstruction project of R4.5 m from the 2012/2013 budget;
To establish a project team with all relevant stakeholders to within the 2012/2013 financial year investigate the method of funding of the project and to undertake research into alternative methods of protecting the dune spit.
• A summary of the motivations of those against the proposal follows :
FUNDING THE PROJECT
If St Francis property owners are required to fund project, then all the property owners should be included;
The sea shore belongs to National Government and Government should thus foot the bill;
National funding should be acquired from the Disaster Management Fund;
Kouga Municipality should protect the dune spit as it is on a Public Open Space;
Funding should be a combined effort of State, the Municipality and canal owners;
Owners of Canal properties are already paying monthly riparian fees for canal maintenance;
The levy should be regarded as a loan to the municipality repayable against the rates account.
The levy of R10 000 is not affordable by many pensioners.
METHODS OF REPAIRING THE SPIT
Rock revetments not the ideal method of repair
Consider sand bags
Further research required
Amidst the overwhelming vote against the proposal of the RHOA it seems a sensible decision of Kouga Council to appoint a project team with all relevant stakeholders to do research into all methods of protecting the dune spit and also to investigate methods of funding.
Legal opinion on the fundamental mandatory legislation requirement of the 50% +1 majority is also still awaited.
It all boils down to total agreement that the spit dune urgently needs attention, but viewers differ remarkably as to how this should be done and who must pay for it.
Councillor Chimpie Cawood