2012 Will be remembered as the year when all the hard work done over the last few years, by so many people, all came to a head. After close to 12 months of behind-the-scenes negotiations, brokered by our attorney, Michael Jackson and DPDC director, Tutu Mnganga, an agreement was eventually signed, allowing a new compromised and down-scaled development to proceed, and at the same time preserving a large portion of Vetch’s Beach as well as Vetch’s Pier.
Save Vetch’s Association (SVA) was formed for the sole purpose of retaining Vetch’s Beach, Vetch’s Pier and Limestone Reef, ensuring their preservation and free access to these valuable public assets and the calm waters of the Vetch’s Bight for the public and all watersports users. We believe this compromised plan achieves all this, save for a 200 metre stretch of beach. A plan along these lines, at the onset of this development 9 years ago, would have avoided much controversy, animosity, delay in improving this area, and certainly all the unnecessary expenditure by all parties, including those so unnecessarily borne by the Durban rate payers.
ADVANTAGES OF THE NEW PLAN
Under the previous plan, the entire beach, save for a 100 metre stretch, would have been buried under concrete. A concrete seawall would have been built alongside Vetch’s Pier, virtually destroying all the marine life on it. The Point Watersports Club would have been surrounded by a shopping mall and apartments with virtually no beach for the thousands of their members to enjoy. A 24-storey hotel would have been built alongside Vetch’s Pier.
During the course of the development it was at one stage proposed by the developers that a revetment (a sandbag wall) was to be built 25 metres into the sea, from the toe of Vetch’s to the north harbour wall so that the building of a “super basement” for parking extending down to an old high-water mark that consumed most of the existing beach, could be built. During this process access to the water by watersports users would have been virtually impossible. The building process would have extended over a number of years. There can be no doubt that by the time of its completion most of the current users of this beach would have been long gone. The hue and cry raised by the Paddle Ski Club and the SVA at the time this became known in 2009 during the litigation process, turned the tide on this plan and enabled beachgoers to continue to enjoy the use of this beach as they had done in the past.
The new plan negotiated by SVA and the Durban Paddle Ski Club ensures 300 metres of beach retained for the use of the club members to launch their craft and not 150 metres as stated by Durban Ski Boat and Durban Undersea Clubs to their members. The new club site will have direct access to the beach, with 4x4 vehicles and trailers able to park on it as is currently being done. The public will have access to the beach and Vetch’s Pier with all the marine life remaining unaffected. No hotel will be built alongside Vetch’s Pier. All categories of sailing craft will be able to launch, either from the beach or from a hard and sheltered slip-way.
CHALLENGES THAT LIE AHEAD
There are however many issues that still need to be resolved. The relocation and amalgamation of all the watersports clubs will, without any doubt, create a huge challenge. Balancing between creating an aesthetically acceptable clubhouse and a practical and financially viable and affordable structure will most certainly test us all. The clubs have mentioned a figure of R50 million required to construct their clubhouse, and this is a point of concern. Raising such an amount, along with being burdened with unknown municipal rates and levies will most certainly have a huge impact on the fee structure, which could easily take access to the ocean away from the average man in the street. That is not what SVA and the Durban Paddle Ski Club have fought for. It would serve no good purpose in simply just saving a beach and then making it unaffordable to the vast majority of the population.
A further point of some concern is the confusion regarding access to the watersports club members and the public on the section of beach saved by SVA and the Durban Paddle Ski Club. For us, the designated use of the beach was not negotiable and although it very nearly scuttled the agreement, we ensured that DPDC and any possible future successors would never interfere with the public and watersports club members’ access on the entire section of beach. (Paragraph 1.1 and 3.7 of the agreement) We are astonished however to note how easily the management of these clubs seems eager, or at the very least, willing to accept a much restricted section of only 150 metres within which their boating members would have to operate.
We are also bemused at how these clubs that sat on the fence and did nothing for all these years to save what has now been saved, are now telling their members that they have also been working hard and they too “played a major role in unlocking the impasse that existed.” Everyone that has been following this saga will know that this statement is totally ludicrous.
We would like to remind them that approximately 5 years ago, they signed an agreement with DPDC allowing the small craft harbour to go ahead, which would have, without any doubt, destroyed the entire beach and Vetch’s Pier, which so many of their own members enjoyed for so many years. Had SVA not taken legal action and the Durban Paddle Ski Club not stood its ground, by now the entire beach and reef would have disappeared. The only people that played any major role, are the SVA members, our skilled, conscientious and generous legal team, the countless fund-raisers and notably the public and the Durban Paddle Ski Club who all contributed so generously, in financial terms, in helping us achieve most of our goals. The Watersports clubs (Durban Ski Boat Club, Durban Undersea Club and Point Yacht Club) had little option but to accept what would otherwise have been imposed upon them by the settlement, they having little choice after binding themselves to a Memorandum of Agreement. The developers included a clause giving them an overriding and sole discretion to determine such matters as, for instance, the location of their site, should the small craft harbour not go ahead as proposed.
Another concern that has existed since this controversial development began, is the non-participation of the various and essential Ethekwini Municipality departments, who for some inconceivable reason have remained mum throughout the assessment period, contributing very little, if anything at all. It borders on insanity to have the biggest, most controversial and certainly most expensive coastal development, perhaps in the history of Durban, take place and not one word of caution or advice emanating from the Coastal Engineering and Environmental Departments of the city.
It was only a year ago when we all marched on the “Blue Line” to highlight the effects of climate change to the rest of the world during the COP17 summit, when all the world’s environmental experts were in our city. We appeared to make a resounding impact, telling developers to retreat back and away from the sea, but at Vetch’s, these departments were ignoring their own advice and were allowing development to proceed in the opposite direction – into the middle of an unpredictable and at times violent ocean. We sincerely hope that the heads of these departments will finally come out of their shells and make the valuable contribution we know they are capable of making towards implementing this agreement in a transparent manner and create a development, which will serve the interests of all the people of this city.
THE FUTURE OF THE SAVE VETCH’S ASSOCIATION
The committee of SVA will remain active and not drop its guard until this development has been completed. At this stage more funding is not anticipated, unless the agreement is broken during its implementation and we are compelled to return to the courts. We remain confident that backed by the watchful eye of the Durban public, this will not occur and more funding will not become necessary.
We are grateful that good sense has finally prevailed and hope that investor confidence returns to the Point and wish this development the very best.
We are also grateful for the legal team made up by attorney, Michael Jackson, who was so influential in reaching this compromise agreement, and advocates, Peter Rowan SC, Douglas Shaw QC, Andrea Gabriel SC and Andreas Coutsoudis, who all worked so passionately and tirelessly over the last 3 years. No words of gratitude could ever express our appreciation for their contribution to this worthy cause.
Lastly, we would like to express our most sincere thanks to all our supporters, who contributed so generously, not only in money terms, but putting in so many hours and days into all the fund raising events, which were so crucial for us to reach this constructive end result, which we see as a huge positive for our city. We would have not done it without you!
We thank you all.
SAVE VETCH’S ASSOCIATION
13 December 2012
11 December 2012
WHAT a unique occasion and event – a modern day African version of the David and Goliath story (Daily News, December 6).
COMPROMISE: This is the story that appeared in the Daily News.
It is a story of courage, steadfast tenacity and remaining true to one’s beliefs. The small man, the Durban Paddle Ski Club standing firm in its convictions, resisting the financial might in funds and resources of the Durban Point Development Company.
Not armed with a sling and stone, but rather a fishing rod and reel, hooks and some barbed comments, the small man struggled for some while to reel the developer into shallow waters and up to the beach erosion line… And here the story changes…
The big fish, the Durban Point Development Company, was released from the hook to live again, a revitalised life.
Notwithstanding the commendable compromise reached between the Durban Paddle Ski Club and DPDC to set aside their legal dispute; there must be no victory celebrations at the slaying of Goliath but rather the earnest desire to communicate more fully, collectively striving for a common vision that all can embrace.
If this is achievable, the ultimate trophy will be the shining sustainable development; economically sound, socially enriching, environmentally sensitive and brimful of many wonderful opportunities and memories to come.
The collective victory salute will only be raised when the DPDC aspires to and implements both the desires and needs of the Durban citizens and balances the financial demands of a modern day city.
A unique East Coast African city development enriched by the blood, sweat and tears of all involved in the process of compromise and an outcome of which we can all be proud.
December 7 2012 at 12:15pm
Credit must be given those who facilitated the breaking of the stalemate over a small craft harbour at Vetch’s beach, which had divided water sports bodies and angered developers and beach users.
The compromise reached, allowing a smaller development to go ahead while still protecting Vetch’s Pier and access to the beaches, took many months of hard work behind the scenes.
For 10 years the fight typified the kind so often played out between conservationists and wealthy developers. Driven by belief, the people who gave so much time to the Save Vetch’s Association proved that David could, at the very least, tie up Goliath until the giant became almost moribund.
The refusal by the Durban Paddle Ski Club, under chairman Johnny Vassilaros, to accept the original plan from the developers, formed a kernel around which opponents rallied. This led to the formation of the SVA.
The other water sport clubs had signed an agreement with the developers, opting to “fight from within”. The paddle ski club and its resolute defiance became an obvious target and was subject to harassment.
These tactics backfired when actions, such as getting the sheriff to seize members’ boats, drew irate water sport people into the fight.
The pact thus meant a triumph over animosity. Each side will bear their own legal costs. And the deal sets out how most of the beach, the pier and the reef are to be protected.
The developers have agreed not to hinder access by the general public to the beach zone, either during construction or beyond it. The agreement also allows the paddle ski club to join the other clubs in one body, still to be negotiated.
For the developers it offers a chance to inject much-needed growth into the Point area. Any bitterness after such a long fight, one which should have been settled 10 years ago, should now be set aside.
Durban has every interest in regenerating confidence and momentum in the Point Development.
9 Dec 2012 Sunday
Waterfront role players reach middle ground to please water sports enthusiasts, while enabling significant development, reports Jeff Wicks
PLANS for a Point Watersports Club (PWC), which developers say will be an attraction in itself, were unveiled to club members in Durban yesterday.
The Point Watersports Club, a consolidation of the Durban Ski Boat Club, Point Yacht Club, Durban Undersea Club and Durban Paddle Ski Club, held briefings on the revised plans at the respective clubhouses.
The club meetings followed a peace deal brokered this week, which saw the Durban Point Development Company (DPDC) and the Save Vetch's Association come to a compromise to develop a revised multimillion-rand waterfront development, which includes a hotel, luxury apartments and a small craft harbour.
The project had been blighted by a protracted legal impasse, which saw developers and opponents trading blows for nearly 10 years.
The DPDC, the Save Vetch's Association and the Durban Paddle Ski Club signed a new legal settlement after months of negotiations.
The agreement will allow developers to go ahead with the erection of a hotel and apartments at the mouth of Durban harbour, but prevents any development on Vetch's Pier reef and preserves a stretch of sandy beachfront.
In a joint press release issued by the DPDC and the PWC, project director Neels Brink said water sports had always been viewed as an integral part of the development.
"Their input was always invaluable in reaching a compromise settlement, as well as in the new designs for the club facilities and their integration into the waterfront," he said.
The new joint clubhouse will be at the foot of Vetch's Pier and members will be able to launch their boats directly from the beach.
The initial plan would have seen the sandy beach covered in concrete.
Brink said this compromise would lead to a development that would uphold Durban's reputation as the country's leading water sports centre.
"Throughout the engagement, and in reaching the final plan, the PWC acted in good faith. I thank the club members who have contributed positively to securing the future of their sports," he said.
"It will be multi-level and a unique feature will be access to the canal system within the Point Waterfront.
"Situated in the heart of the development, it is expected to become an attraction in itself," Brink said.
Hilton Kidger, of the Durban Ski Boat Club, expressed confidence in the new site.
"It heralds the start of a bright future for Durban's Point water sports. The multifunctional club site, coupled with security of tenure for the PWC, will enable the hosting of international events," he was quoted as saying.
Point Yacht Club's Trevor Donald said the club would be one of the first in Durban to own premises.
Cuane Hall, speaking on behalf of the Durban Underwater Club, said the site would cater for the growth of scuba diving excursions.
The remodelled development will feature a canal lock linking canals with the Indian Ocean. The basin will be fringed with mixed-use developments, from retail and office to hotel and residential.
"Restaurants at the water's edge should create a vibrant atmosphere and add to the work, live and play vision. Construction time frames will be released when the planning processes have been finalised," said Brink.
AT LONG last, the bruising Battle of Vetch’s Pier is at an end. The settlement agreement announced this week is undoubtedly a victory for Durban, for development and the citizens who mounted a brave and spirited campaign to safeguard a popular recreation space from unbridled development.
All the parties – the city, developers, water sports clubs, conservation and citizen groups – have made compromises to a lesser or greater degree, so the final result may not please everyone.
It’s just a pity that the Durban Point Development Company failed to see the writing on the wall much earlier, or to address the legitimate concerns of critics.
Though the city and developers sought to bully and portray the more vocal opponents as a tiny minority of “obstructionists”, it may be just as well for the proponents that all the dirty linen and evidence of high-level political interference in the environmental authorisation process will no longer be aired in court.
The findings of an independent social impact assessment were brushed aside, the draft recommendations of senior environmental officials were replaced with a more developer-friendly solution, and there was also evidence of interference by a shadowy figure from the premier’s office.
But in the end the global economic downturn, the spiralling cost of litigation and the more recent intervention of cooler heads all helped to draw hostilities to an end and to bring about a new plan that most parties can live with.
Now that agreement has been struck, it’s time to move on from brinkmanship and recrimination to ensure the success of a major development project which promises to rejuvenate the harbour mouth and Point precinct.
Under the new agreement, the parties have committed themselves to support the new development, which protects Vetch’s Reef and most of the beach from construction, but also creates space for a new iconic and world-class development.
Durban residents will no doubt embrace this opportunity to remodel a dilapidated public space, preserving the unique features of Vetch’s Pier while creating new amenities designed to put our city back on the map.