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Media Release: New Garden Route National Park established
The Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, declared the establishment of the new Garden Route National Park at an event in Knysna, which coincides, with the gazetting of the Park today.
The Minister said the establishment of the new Garden Route National Park (GRNP) is part of a long-term strategy to expand the protected areas in South Africa under formal protection from 6% to 8% of the total area of the country. “As our Parks are some of our most important conservation and tourism assets, we have been steadily increasing spending on Parks. We have invested R411 million in infrastructure development for the period 2006/07 to 2008/09 and a further R245 million is being earmarked for the next MTEF period. Other financial assistance has increased from R85.6 million in 2004/05 to R205 million in 2009/10,” the Minister said.
“The Garden Route is one of the most important conservation areas in South Africa and one of our crown jewels in terms of biodiversity and its attraction of both foreign and local tourists,” Van Schalkwyk said. The diverse biomes in the Garden Route include indigenous forests, the Knysna estuary, the Wilderness lake areas, marine protected areas, lowland fynbos and mountain catchment areas of national importance. SANParks is the second largest employer in the region and its total economic contribution to the region is estimated to be almost R95 million per annum.
According to the Minister, the formation of the GRNP will have a number of beneficial results. These include that it will allow for the sharing of resources and management experience and the integration of current management units in order for greater economies of scale to be achieved.
“Furthermore, the formation of the GRNP will facilitate the regional implementation of important programmes like fire management and alien clearing and enable land consolidation. The Park management will be able to take advantage of the potential of integrated landscape management, which will improve the protection of important ecosystems”, Van Schalkwyk said.
The size of the GRNP will be a total of approximately 121 000 hectares. It will consist of about 52 500 hectares of newly proclaimed land, as well as 68 500 hectares of the Wilderness and Tsitsikamma National Parks. The individual Parks will retain their identity and become camps in the greater GRNP, known as Tsitsikamma and Wilderness.
The GRNP will straddle two provinces, namely the Eastern and Western Cape, two district municipalities, namely Eden and Cacadu, and four local municipalities, namely George, Knysna, Bitou and Koukamma. The tourist facilities in the GRNP will include camping decks, chalets, mountain biking trails, hiking trails, canoeing, diving and history and adventure activities.
Minister van Schalkwyk said co-operative governance will be essential for the success management of the GRNP. “The new National Park is unique, as its administrative and ecological boundaries vary considerably. In this context, multi-stakeholder partnerships will be instrumental to successful conservation management.”
At the event, SANParks Chief Operating Officer, Sydney Soundy, said that the Garden Route is one of the critical focus areas in South Africa. “The area plays host to the largest continuous complex of indigenous forest in the country, spanning approximately 60 500 hectares. Its aquatic systems, the Knysna estuary and the Wilderness lake areas, are rated number one and number six respectively in the country. The fynbos falls within the Cape Floristic region, which is a designated global diversity hotspot.”
“To manage this unique combination of diverse biomes with strong tourism and developmental interest will be one of our biggest challenges as SANParks. Here the term ‘conservation without boundaries’ needs to become a way of life, not just for major stakeholders, but also for all residents in the areas surrounding the park,” Soundy said.
“The Garden Route is fortunate to be part of this process and I believe we will be coining a new conservation model for South Africa. The Park is unique and will require unique management, which we will have to drive. We are looking forward to this challenge,” Soundy said.
Ministry: Ronel Bester, cell: 083 242 7763
SANParks: Nicci Rousseau, 083 299 7777