PLETT RATEPAYERS NEWSLETTER – Volume 22 – December 2019

Chairman’s Report 2019
December 22, 2019
Retirement tribute to Neville Petersen – Chairman of the Plett Ratepayers Association
December 26, 2019

PLETT RATEPAYERS NEWSLETTER – Volume 22 – December 2019

Airport by  Mike Pearce
To start with the good news, Cemair have pulled out all the stops and have advertised starting a scheduled return service to Plett from JHB and CPT, as from 4th December 2019, probably using a Dash 8 – if the loads justify it. A Memorandum of Understanding, valid for a year and renewable, has been signed with the Bitou Council. Cemair will pay rental for the terminal building and normal landing and parking fees. Fire Services will be provided by the Council, at cost to the Council. The Fire Services have been re-trained and certified, after a long period of no scheduled service. Cemair assisted in this regard. The terminal building is being readied to receive passengers again, and new baggage scanning equipment is due to be installed shortly. The Council has proposed that an Airport Forum be formed incorporating all relevant and interested parties. Obviously, the Ratepayers Association welcome this, and would be a keen participant. The saga of provision of fuel at the Airport is ongoing. Another tender process is underway, after the disastrous previous tender, to provide fuel for a 3 year period. In the meantime, the Council is in the process of obtaining a small temporary supply of both types of fuel. The current storage tanks and dispensing equipment belong to BP who previously supplied fuel. This could be a problem if the future supplier is not BP. The Airport remains RFF Cat 4. CAA did inspections in November and, although we haven’t seen their report, it seems as if they were mostly happy. The completion of the sub fire station, and its associated staffing remains an issue, and could impact on the Cat 4 status if not satisfactorily resolved. On a sadder note, Stu Lithgow and a passenger were killed on Monday 2nd December, in an aircraft accident involving one of the gliders of Garden Route Gliding. The accident took place just short of the airfield, on the approach to Runway 30. There are no details at present. We extend our condolences to Stu’s wife, Kathy and their 3 children, Alison, Neil and Gillian as well as their families. Stu and his gentle flying machine will be sorely missed here in Plett.

Looking forward to 2020, we hope that the Council gives the airport the attention it deserves, and that we as the Ratepayers’ Association can get the lines of communication open and direct, to enable us to help where we can, and report what we can.

Crime and Security by Marius Venter
What a challenging year! We had three syndicates who targeted our town, specializing in the following:
1) Housebreaking via the roof!
2) Armed robberies specializing in weapons and jewellery.
3) ATM robberies

The syndicate that specialized in the house robberies have broken into more than 70 houses and got away with more than R20 million in 7 months. After a breakthrough on one of the victim’s cameras, we followed up on intel and after a three months’ investigation, we managed to arrest the group in Edenvale, Johannesburg. The group had vast amounts of explosives in their possession and is now being prosecuted under the terrorism act. The second syndicate specialized in armed robberies. The first attack was on the 28th of December 2018 at Ebenezer Estate where Mr. Peter Augsburg was shot by four armed robbers. The group was very well trained, professional and definitely ex-police or military. They used specialized military signal scrambling equipment which is not easy to come by. The group had inside information on all the properties they attacked; information on safe placements and type of weapons that were kept in the safes. We were very fortunate to have arrested three perpetrators two months ago in Knysna after a shootout in Plett industrial area. After the arrest we found large amounts of drugs on them and one of the criminals was identified as the shooter at Ebenezer Estate and involved in the armed robbery at Strandmeer. The third syndicate targeted tourists at ATMs but soon understood that Plettenberg Bay is not a town to come to and rob tourists. The Plett Rapid Response Team has arrested more than five groups of ATM robbers in the past five months in Plettenberg Bay. By the beginning of November, we had crime under control and three syndicates in jail. The Plett Rapid Response Team played a vital role in arresting the members of the three syndicates during 2019. The team consists of 16 volunteers with specialized tactical training which gives us the edge on criminals. Plett is known as one of the safest towns in SA.

Riots in Plett
Unfortunately, Plett has had several riots over the past year which caused major losses as tourists stayed away. We are slowly but surely recovering and trying to stop riots before they start. The Plett Rapid Response Team once again played a vital role in assisting POP and SAPS to arrest more than 50 criminals during the past year’s riots. 2020 will have challenges of its own but we are ready to handle whatever comes our way.

Electrical Power, Water and Waste Water Treatment  by Oliver Rissik

The Bitou power infrastructure is old and precarious. The appointment of a new Electrical Engineer/ Manager a year ago has altered the infrastructure replacement priorities set by the previous Electrical Engineer. The major electrical infrastructure priority over the past year, although necessary, has been the electrification of the many low-cost housing areas. The previously planned high voltage ring main system (to supply power from different points in the event of localised power failures) has been put on hold (and given a relatively low priority), the effect of which has been noticed over the past months. However, a new power Master Plan has recently been completed by consultants and priorities will be dealt with in accordance with this new plan. The Electrical Department, like the Water Department, is in capable and qualified hands and, subject to correct budgeting and funds being made available by Council, should continue with the satisfactory gradual upgrading of the very aged infrastructure. Open supply tender contracts are now in place to make available day to day electrical equipment and off-the-shelf spares to be kept on hand in store, obviating delays in dealing with equipment failures and normal maintenance. Several substations which should have had switchgear replaced (planned in the 2017/2018 year) have not had this done, but temporary provision has been effected to obviate problems here. A major power upgrade, with the installation of a new 20 MVa transformer, is in progress serving New Horisons, Kwanokathula, Magistrates Court and surrounds. Persistent problems exist with many residents’ electrical accounts showing incorrect charges and lengthy meter reading periods (in excess of the permitted maximum 35 day period), thereby giving higher total charges for the particular long period due to the tiered tariff charges. General meter reading problems also exist. This is entirely a Finance department problem and one which they seem incapable of getting under control. Prepaid electrical meter costs are also causing customer dissatisfaction. Random amounts are being deducted from payments before units are allocated to a specific payment. We are endeavouring to get to the bottom of these problems and will advise members when satisfactory answers are received from the Finance department. Street light outages are a continuous problem. However, the Electrical department is finally getting this maintenance under control – improvement should be noticed.

The country is in the grip of a water crisis, in part due to the drought, and in part due to bad planning by the national water authority, and incompetent municipal water management.However, in Bitou we are fortunate to have a relatively constant source of water, mainly from the Keurbooms/Palmiet Rivers, the Desalination Plant and several boreholes that yield about ⅓ of the town’s off-season supply. The Roodefontein Dam is merely an emergency supply (at present at 80.3% capacity) and is not being used now to supplement our supply. In addition, we have a very competent qualified Engineer as our new Water Department manager who has very quickly grasped all the problems associated with both water purification for the town and waste water treatment. That being said, our water supply is stable right now but precarious. The Keurbooms River flow has held up reasonably well due to the intermittent, but well spaced rainy spells. This could change dramatically if a) our rainfall does not hold up (rainfall this year is 480 mm, compared to the annual average of 733 mm for the past 22 years), and b) if the unabated construction low-cost housing to cater for the influx of migrants from other provinces is not checked. This, of course, is a national social matter, but needs to be addressed. The water infrastructure, although aged, is coping with the added capacity. Old fiber cement piping is being replaced in an ongoing process (at present in Poortjies), but the major portion of the approximately 350 km of water piping in the town is now past its design period. The 72 sewer pump stations cause periodic overflow problems due to pump failure, power cuts (load shedding), stand-by generators have being stolen, and intermittent blockages caused by vandalism to both pump stations and pipe/manhole infrastructure. The Wadrift off-channel storage dam is no further towards being implemented, partly due to the fact that additional geotechnical investigation is recommended by the consulting engineers because of the very fractured substrata below the planned dam wall. The Engineering Department is seriously looking at water supply alternatives for the near/medium term, namely upgrading the Desalination Plant capacity and bringing into use the several boreholes drilled but not yet commissioned. Water is now a scarce and precious commodity in Bitou, and despite the fact that we are in a better supply position compared to very many municipalities, our supply position must not be taken for granted, and every effort must be made by ALL residents to use water sparingly and wisely.

What is of great concern is the unabated push for the construction of low cost (RDP) housing by the Municipality. The new Ebenezer development makes provision for 1642 housing units and is in the process of being ratified by the Planning Tribunal. However, the Tribunal has only passed a minor portion of this development and has requested much additional information with particular reference to the feasibility of bulk services and water supply. The Council recently passed a resolution to purchase the land between Ebenezer and Wittedrif for additional housing. This involves approximately 400 hectare of which only 133 ha. is usable for housing (the balance being too steep for housing). The plan is to accommodate 4700 housing units there. In our opinion, there is no way the current water supply will be able to accommodate this volume of planned housing as the Keurbooms River flow is finite, and in dry conditions the flow reaches the limit at which water is permitted to be extracted from the river. We together with the Environmental Forum will monitor this planned development and will engage with both Engineering department and the relevant housing departments to ensure that this unabated expansion is controlled.

Waste Management- Peter Gaylard

The site has been closed to all materials with effect from 15th December 2018, in line with the requirements of a court order. A final survey of the site was completed at the end of January and, based on this, Aurecon conducted stability studies and completed the final design of the site closure. Their proposal, which was submitted to the Department of Water Affairs for their approval, allows for completion of the closure by the end of 2020 at an estimated cost varying between R28 million and R31,7 million, depending on the specific technical approach adopted.

This has operated effectively throughout the year with domestic waste being compacted and trucked to the PetroSA landfill site at Mossel Bay. The closure of the Plettenberg Bay landfill site led to an accumulation of green waste at the transfer station but this was removed during the second half of the year following the hire of a chipper to make the material suitable for disposal as compost material. The accumulation of bulky waste remained a problem. However, following the receipt of a warning letter from the Western Cape Provincial Government, Bitou Municipality obtained permission to ship this material to the PetroSA landfill site and much of the accumulated material has since been removed. EPWP workers were engaged to sort the waste, to separate recyclable material and to minimise the quantity of material to be transferred to the landfill site. An amount of R800 000 has been allowed in the current operating budget for the cost of the removal. At the same time, businesses in the Bitou area are being approached to ask them to sort their waste, to separate the various waste materials at source, and reduce the quantity of bulky waste dumped at the Transfer Station. Waste Collection: there were repeated problems throughout the year because of a shortage of compactor trucks. Problems with the Supply Chain Management system with regard to keeping these trucks repaired and maintained frequently caused the Bitou Municipality to hire additional compactor trucks at a cost of R57 000 per month per truck. Because of this, the Waste Management Department spent more than R820 000 during the past financial year on equipment hire, over and above what was provided for in its departmental budget. Waste Minimisation Project: This project is being led by the Garden Route District, although there is a separate plan for each individual municipality, and has a target of achieving zero organic waste by 2027, with a reduction of 50% in the current organic waste generation rate by 2022. Drop-Off Facilities: Construction work on the site adjacent to Old Nick commenced and hand over is expected on 4th December. Two further facilities will be completed over the next two years, at Kurland and at Kranshoek, respectively. Illegal Dumping: This continues to be a problem, currently mainly caused by homeless vagrants emptying and trashing domestic refuse bins and bags.Recycling: The existing contractor continues to provide the recycling service to the municipality while fresh tenders are being issued for a new service provider.Regional Landfill Site: Construction is scheduled to start in January 2020 and the current forecast commissioning date for the first operating cell is now June 2020. Mossgas have confirmed that they will be able to continue to receive municipal waste shipments until then.

Town Planning and Land Use by  Len Swimmer
As one of the members of the Planning and Land Use portfolio on the EXCO, it being our responsibility to ensure the municipality follows proper procedures on town planning issues, adheres to building codes and municipal by-laws. It is not our function to pass judgment based on our personal opinion, but that public participation is followed and everyone has visibility to the proposals and the opportunity to comment.
Some of the town planning issues monitored this past year include:
• Keurbooms Estuary: The proposed sale of land adjoining the Keurbooms Estuary between Poortjies and Goose Valley will not be sold. The proposed subdivision has been declared “not for sale” and instead the land will either be given to Cape Nature as a birding colony or it will be designated Public Open Space owned by the Municipality.
• Erf 245 The Bungalow & adjacent Erf 246 Timber Shed: The parking shortage for The Bungalow has been solved as owner Otto Wiehahn has bought the adjacent property and intends to develop a boutique hotel, providing sufficient parking for both establishments without encroaching on the historical Timber Shed.
• Low-Cost Housing Development on Erf 4367, adjacent to Santini Village and the Shell Garage: We have offered suggestions to make this development more acceptable, such as height not greater than 3 storeys, a body corporate being elected, washing and recycling facilities, sufficient parking and design similar to Santini Village in order to blend in with this architecture.
Council has approved a revised proposal, so the Planning Tribunal will consider it next. The 1st Tribunal meeting was abandoned due to it being non quorate; a future Tribunal hearing will take place this month.
• Signal Hill is a major tourist attraction and a destination where visitors and the local community go to enjoy the magnificent views of Plett. A proposal to develop the property below it is being closely monitored to prevent any contravention of building codes and by-laws.
• Proposed development of “Clairisons Retirement Village” on Portion 52 of Farm 444 -an application, by Fusion Properties (Pty) Ltd to develop a retirement village on Portion 53 of Farm 444, located in Plettenberg Bay by Khaled El-Jabi. Application was denied by DEA&DP, however passed by Provincial Government of Western Cape who determined it was not on a wetland.
• Erf 1893 Plettenberg Bay: this erf accommodates the Plettenberg Bay Rugby field and is zoned Public Open Space. It is owned by Bitou Municipality and is being considered for gap housing or a strategically located multi-storey block of flats. The Municipality intends to set in motion an “approval arrangement” using an in-house basis for a new zoning approval, and at the same time removal of any restrictive conditions of title and thereafter, call for tender bids for the new General Residential Zoning purposes.
• Objection to Subdivision Erf 11174 – adjacent to Formosa Garden Village: We filed an objection as follows: “This is to advise you that Plett Ratepayers’ Association have the following objections to this development application:
◦ The entrance to the Formosa Garden Village and this new development consists of one of the most dangerous intersections onto the N2 National highway, due to the number of fatalities over the past years.
◦ This intersection cannot take any more traffic than already exists – every few months there is an accident at this intersection
◦ Traffic coming from the Knysna direction are travelling downhill and on a curved road – the steepness of the gradient results in vehicles travelling at higher than normal speeds which makes vehicles exiting from FGV + the new development being put in danger of accidents – often fatal”.
We have not heard the outcome of this application as of yet but will keep you informed.
• Bitou’s Local Economic Development Section were to approve Informal Trading between Cupid & Xenon Streets, planned for December 2018 but to date, this has not materialised and this may lead to unauthorised trading in the area.

Roads by  Maxine Brett
Firstly I would like to thank the Bitou Municipality for the great job they do on our roads, despite the large area they have to cover and budgetary constraints. The Municipality are currently doing a blitz to get the road marking, signage spruced up and the pavements mowed and cleaned for the festive season.
Plett traffic has a number of new recruits who will be posted at the busy intersections, such the top of Piesang Valley Road and the N2, Corner of Robberg Road and Piesang Valley Road, the corner of Marine Way and High Street as well as the Central Beach Precinct. We urge our members to report potholes, broken road signs as well as streetlights that are not working to the customer care number at the municipality: 086 124 8686. Please ensure that you get a reference number. The Piesang Valley and Robberg Road Intersection: A study was done and a traffic circle was proposed and accepted by Council. Provision was made in the Capital budget for last year (Capital budgets run in 3 year cycle). This item was removed from the Capital budget due to financial constraints. We are hopeful, as we have been given assurances by the Bitou Engineering Department, that this item will be put back on the agenda for the next capital budget cycle.