30 December 2005
South Africa is to have another major national park, in Pondoland on the Wild Coast of the Eastern Cape. The country currently has 20 national parks, including the Kruger National Park, Addo Elephant National Park and Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.
Plans for the new park, part of the Wild Coast Conservation and Development Programme, were announced in September by Environmental Affairs and Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk after a meeting with the Eastern Cape government in Bhisho.
“Anyone who has spent any time at all on the Wild Coast knows the power of this place,” Van Schalkwyk said. “It captures the spirit of untamed mystery, combines it with untouched majesty, and presents it through landscapes of unrivalled natural splendour.
“It is our intention to protect this unique heritage for our generations to come by proclaiming a new national park in Pondoland.”
The Pondoland centre of biological diversity and endemism is of international ecological importance, and was recently added to the list of 26 global floristic hotspots.
Instead of using the standard Big Five wildlife drawcard, the park will offer a combination of beaches, marine and estuarine escapes and African cultural heritage, in addition to wildlife viewing.
It will build on the Pondoland Marine Protected Area proclaimed in 2004, and will ultimately extend the development corridor running along the KwaZulu-Natal south coast into Pondoland. In the longer term the goal is to link it to the Western Cape’s Garden Route development corridor.
From degradation to development
The Eastern Cape Cabinet pledged its support for the park, which the provincial government will help manage.
“We have seen, in some areas, serious degradation over the past few years as a result of unplanned and inappropriate development, resource overuse and invasive species,” Van Schalkwyk said.
This threatened both the area’s sensitive ecosystems and the long-term economic prospects of Pondoland communities, he said. “It is ecotourism and related activities that hold the best potential for sustainable economic growth and job creation.”
According to Eastern Cape Premier Nosimo Balindlela, the ecotourism potential of the Wild Coast is a key part of the province’s 10-year growth and development plan.
“The new park will be an asset for the people of our province and for all South Africans,” Balindlela said. “It will be focused on both conservation and ensuring local economic development and social upliftment.
“The project is a positive example of how provincial and national government can work together for growth and delivery.”
The government will begin a comprehensive series of public consultations soon.
“The character of the Wild Coast must be fully reflected in our final product,” Van Schalkwyk said. “This will require the participation of communities, traditional leaders, women’s groups, local businesses, concerned NGOs and others.”