Title now passes from the State to the new landowners with restrictions in title including that the land remains under formal conservation and part of the Park for ever.
Principles of economic viability, financial sustainability and holistic management are incorporated. Mining continues to be prohibited. The Park will continue to be managed by the Wetland Authority established in 2000 for this purpose, with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife as its conservation partner. Going forward, co-management agreements will be entered into with each Landowner Trust.
Signatories to the agreements were the Minister of Agriculture and Land Affairs, Lulu Xingwana; the Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Marthinus van Schalkwyk; Chief Land Claims Commissioner Tozi Gwanya; KZN
Land Claims Commissioner Siduduzile Sosibo; Wetland Authority CEO Andrew Zaloumis and each of the Land Claimant Trust Chairpersons of Sokhulu, Mnqobokazi, KwaJobe, Nsinde and Mdletshe.
Together the 5 claims total about 12 000ha and include 1550 households who will be compensated R14.5 million, with a futher R52 million being paid by government to the Land Owner Trust as development grants. While
not large in area they include high value conservation areas. As mandatory partners, claimants now have preference in activities like employment and training, sharing of gate revenues, ownership in tourist developments and natural resource harvesting like incema reeds.
In a message read to assembled communities and guests, Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said: â€œIt is fitting I acknowledge the history of suffering associated with conservation in this country. Along with many of our protected areas, the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park was an area where people once lived â€“ we can trace the story of occupation of this area back to the early Stone Age people between 500 000 and one million years ago. Ironically and unfortunately, conservation and forced removals went hand-in-hand."
â€œThe Wetland Park is one of the worldâ€™s outstanding natural treasures. Its five unique ecosystems include species such as black rhino, oribi, wild dog, elephant, cheetah, whales and coelacanths."
â€œThis new model for conservation is evidence of the governmentâ€™s commitment to continuing to fulfill its national and international obligations to protect our natural assets whilst at the same time providing a framework for economic upliftment and poverty alleviation.â€
Sixteen parcels of land have been consolidated to create the World Heritage Site. New access roads, tourism routes, game fences and improved beach, boating and camp facilities have been created.
Wetland Park CEO Andrew Zaloumis said: â€œThere are still many challenges. Among them ensuring progress continues towards putting an end to the paradox of poverty amidst the plenty of nature. Restitution and sustainable settlement of land claims is key to this.â€
* The Greater St Lucia Wetland Park has been officially renamed iSimangaliso Wetland Park as gazetted in May. The new name comes into effect on November 1.
This Wetlands Wire newsflash, will be regularly issued by the Wetlands Park Authority and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, the Park's conservation managers. These communications underline our ongoing commitment to update, inform and involve the public, holidaymakers and interested parties about the Park, and to address any concerns brought to our attention.
Authority Chief Executive Officer