The ruling against Feasey Property Group by the Pietermaritzburg High Court in favour of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority and the KwaZulu/Natal MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs is considered important to protect a breeding population of crocodiles and hippopotamus.
Judge Daya Pillay handed down the landmark decision late on Friday, August 19, and confirmed that World Heritage Site and National Park managers have authority and jurisdiction in buffer zones around parks. It effectively stopped the development of a 512-holiday home development on the banks of iSimangaliso’s Mgoboseleni Lake. The developers have until December 31 to vacate and rehabilitate the site.
TourismUpdate.co.za reports that iSimangaliso had been engaging with Feasey Property Group and its representative, Geoffrey Clifford Little, since 2010 when Little first proposed the development, which is next to the iSimangaliso Sodwana Bay section and overlooks Lake Mgoboseleni and wilderness.
Mgoboseleni is an important complex estuarine lake system connected to an estuary by a stream that flows through rare swamp forest and mangroves. The estuarine lake also has a breeding population of crocodiles and hippopotamus. The park includes 467 International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources listed threatened species.
At the time Little was advised to secure the necessary permissions, which included an environmental impact assessment. He disregarded iSimangaliso’s inputs and proceeded to sell sites to the public.
According to Andrew Zaloumis, iSimangaliso CEO, this action to protect the environment “is a necessary step by iSimangaliso in the fulfilment of its, and South Africa’s, commitments to Unesco and to the people of South African to protect this global jewel… Unauthorised developments in and adjacent to the park place the whole park and its world heritage status at risk”.