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South has big conservancy plans
13 June 2008
The planned conservancy along Joburg's southern edge will link the Klipriviersberg Nature Reserve with the hills of Roodepoort, and will preserve the natural environment and indigenous fauna and flora.

JOZI'S distinctive ridges are to be the links for a huge conservancy that could connect Ekurhuleni's green spaces in the east to the tall koppies of Roodepoort in the west.

The initiative is being driven by development consultant Andrew Barker and Clem Kourie, the honorary chairman of the Klipriviersberg Nature Reserve Association (KNRA), together with Johannesburg City Parks.

The rolling koppies of the Klipriviersberg Nature Reserve
The rolling koppies of the Klipriviersberg Nature Reserve

"The KNRA, [City Parks] and other interested parties believe that the rural nature of the south should be preserved and that one of the significant ways to do so would be to entice landowners around the [Klipriviersberg Nature Reserve] to register their properties as conservancies," Kourie says.

The ambitious project would include land in the whole area from the N12 southern bypass to the Klip River in the south, from the N1 in the west to the R59, and the Vereeniging highway in the east. In total, it is an area of approximately 150km².

A conservancy is a registered, voluntary association between land users and landowners who wish to co-operate to manage their natural resources in an environmentally friendly manner without changing the land use of their properties.

Reconstructed Sotho-style hut in the nature reserve
Overlooking Mondeor from the reserve, with the city centre in the far distance

"The establishment of conservancies gives the ordinary member of a community the opportunity to get involved in the conservation and the management of the local environment," reads the conservancies website.

There are 32 conservancies in the province, registered with the Gauteng department of agriculture, conservation and environment (GDACE).

Kourie says that residents of the southern suburbs, including Glenanda, Glenvista, Mulbarton, Mondeor and Kibler Park, "appreciate living around and among the large open tracts of unspoilt land" in their suburbs.

"A critical component of this proposal is the sustainable promotion and development of the natural environmental resources and rehabilitation of areas located along the Klip River through Soweto and the environmental corridor of the Klip River and Klipriviersberg ridges located in the southern areas of Johannesburg," says Barker.

The conservancy would be focused on the 680ha nature reserve, just south of Mondeor. Game has recently been introduced to the reserve, making it possible for residents to hike and game watch just 10 kilometres from the city centre.

"The area is rich in natural resources, varying from the beautifully wooded Klipiviersberg range of hills, to grasslands and wetlands and to prolific birdlife along the Klip River, a tributary of the Vaal River," explains Kourie. "It contains red data species as well as numerous heritage sites, such as the ruins of the dwellings of Sotho and Tswana people who lived there 300 and more years ago, an old Voortrekker farmstead, Boer war fortifications and sites of interest from the gold rush days."

Kourie says the wider area has "considerable tourism, recreational, cultural, educational and developmental potential, but needs proper and careful environmental management and protection from untoward development".

The derelict Voortrekker farmhouse in the reserve
The derelict Voortrekker farmhouse in the reserve

Other players
The initiative has the backing of many of the players in the area. The South of Johannesburg (SOJO) Business and Tourism Forum is keen to be involved. SOJO has as its aim the promotion of business, tourism and the environment across the whole southern side of the city.

The SOJO Development Band, established in 2001, is a key focus in Region F's Spatial Development Framework, with the aim of maximising the value of existing economic and tourism nodes, in the process enhancing job creation and investment to improve the economic and social conditions of the south.

This will incorporate business, tourism and heritage facilities in Soweto, including tourism drawcards like the Regina Mundi Church, the Mandela House Museum, the Hector Pieterson Museum, the Soweto Shebeen Route, and restaurants.

This initiative is to be called the SOJO Business, Tourism and Recreation Loop, which will benefit from the establishment of the conservancy.

The nearby Afrisam quarry and the Calvary Christian College, private landowners to the west of the reserve, are also interested in being involved. And other plot owners to the immediate west of the reserve want to be included in the conservancy.

It would also include the Soweto wetlands and the Klip River, extending through to the ridges of Roodepoort.

To the east is the Rietvlei Zoo Farm, the Thab Ya Batswana and Stonerivers Arches developments, Rand Water property, and, further east, the wetlands and pristine hillsides of Ekurhuleni. Nature estates around Meyersdal to the east would be a valuable addition. These parties are all interested in the new development.

To the north the Mondeor and Ridgeway hills would be part of the conservancy, and various residential and agricultural holdings would be included. These areas have valuable recreation facilities already in place, from cycling, mountain biking, golf and canoeing, to micro lighting and model airplane activities, says Barker.

GDACE and City Parks
GDACE and City Parks are involved, helping to push the process. City Parks's conservation specialist, Kenneth Mabila, has been driving the initiative for the City, which is very keen on the conservancy. It ties in, he says, with its grasslands project and Klip River clean-up.

The grasslands project involves preserving the bio-diversity in the Klip River, Kyalami and Roodepoort areas. It is part of the national grasslands programme of the South African National Botanical Institute, under the auspices of the national Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism.

The conservancy has been incorporated into the City's Integrated Development Plan and Spatial Development Framework.

Gekco
Once established, it will be the City's second conservancy. A conservancy was launched in March 2007 in the northern reaches of Joburg. Called Gekco, or the Greater Kyalami Conservancy, it encompasses 4 500 hectares of mostly agricultural land, west of the N1 in Midrand.

Its goal is to "conserve, sustain and share the ecology and natural character of the greater Kyalami area", according to the Gekco website. Close to a thousand landowners are members of the conservancy, and activities they have been involved in so far include cleaning up the Jukskei River, planting indigenous trees and removing alien species, keeping an eye on irregular developments and monitoring cellphone tower erection, the rehabilitation of three wetlands in the area, and caring for endangered fauna and flora red data species.

They are working on creating an eco trial that includes cycling, hiking and horse paths.

The area contains a major equine industry, creating thousands of jobs, and Gekco aims to protect this industry and the main open spaces in the conservancy.

The first public meeting to take the southern conservancy proposal forward is being held on Wednesday, 18 June, at 7.30pm at the Klipriviersberg Recreation Centre, Peggy Vera Road, Kibler Park. Johannesburg City Parks, the Gauteng Conservancy Association, and the Klipriviersberg Nature Reserve Association will give presentations.

For more information, contact Andrew Barker on 083 2744424 or email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or Clem Kourie on 082 4582816 or email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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