News Update - December 2012

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