Budget Vote 2023/24 (Vote 32) of Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment Delivered By Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Ms Barbara Creecy, Good Hope Chamber, Parliament
Good Hope Chambers, Cape Town, 19 May 2023
Honourable House Chair
Deputy Minister Ms Makhotso Sotyu;
Honourable Chairperson, Modise, and Committee Members;
Chairpersons and Board members and CEOs of our Entities;
Director-General, Ms Nomfundo Tshabalala;
Team Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment;
Ladies and gentlemen
Fellow South Africans
I want to begin today by acknowledging my special guests who have joined this proceeding on live streaming from one of our beautiful natural assets, the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, led by Ms Sive Melane who hails from Qunu in the Eastern Cape Province.
Sive completed her BSc degree in Geographic Information Systems and Geology with the University of Fort Hare.
In July 2021, five years after she first graduated, Sive finally had a career break when she was recruited to the Groen Sebenza programme as a trainee to support the Ecological Infrastructure Project for Water Security at SANBI.
Ms Melane is one of one thousand, one hundred and seventeen graduates we have recruited to our Groen Sebenza programme which provides graduates with two-years of work experience and aims to ensure they receive long-term work in the science sector, so their education, knowledge and energies are fully harnessed to maintain our country’s natural resources.
Biodiversity and Conservation
Last year, at the Convention on Biological Diversity an agreement dubbed “the new deal for people and nature,” or the Kunming Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), was adopted.
The Framework has three central aspects: The first is the recognition that human and ecosystem sustainability requires thirty percent of the land and thirty percent of the sea be placed under protection by 2030. Secondly, that communities living in and adjacent to conservation estates must benefit from the economic opportunities created; and thirdly that the intellectual property of indigenous people which underpins many bio-prospecting endeavours in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries must be recognised. There was also agreement that developed countries must assist developing countries in achieving global conservation targets.
In March this year, our Government adopted the White Paper on Conservation and Sustainable Use of South Africa’s Biodiversity which is intended to ensure we domesticate this significant global agreement.
Through the support of the Global Environmental Facility the Department has received an early action grant which we are using to develop the implementation plan for our White Paper.
To attract financing to our biodiversity sector, our digital Biodiversity Investment Portal is now profiling pipeline projects within the biodiversity economy space to potential domestic and international investors. It is our intention to ensure that previously disadvantaged communities are able to use this platform to highlight their projects in the biodiversity value chain.
Our approved National Protected Areas Expansion Strategy provides an informed systematic approach on the expansion of the conservation estate with the rate of 0.5% increase annually. In line with this annual increase, South Africa will achieve a rate of 28% for its terrestrial space by 2036, and 10% in the same year for its marine space. We envisage that through this process we are likely to achieve the global 30 by 30 target by the early 2040’s.
Honourable members, last year I indicated I will appoint a panel to advise me on voluntary exit from the captive lion breeding industry. I am pleased to report that the task team that was appointed in December 2022 has made significant progress in engaging with all stakeholders in the captive lion industry including vulnerable workers.
Last month a public call was gazetted inviting registration by participants who wish to voluntarily exit from the captive lion industry. I have taken a decision to extend the registration period for a further 60 days so we reach those enterprises that were not able to take advantage of the first 30 days.
Furthermore, now that we have completed the White Paper we will now return to processing all the feedback we received from the Policy Paper on the High Level Panel recommendations.
With regard to the TOPS recommendations that were recently withdrawn, we have decided to strengthen administrative processes related to implementation. The TOPS Regulations and associated Species Lists will be published for public comment for a period of 30 days. The outcomes of this will inform further implementation.
South African National Parks
SANParks remains the international benchmark for conservation management in South Africa. As part of its commercialisation drive, SANParks aims to deliver thirty-nine new tourism products over the next three years in partnership with the private sector. Fourteen of these projects will open in this current financial year.
In addition, these programmes provide economic opportunities to local communities by creating 2 209 direct jobs in local SMMEs from whom concessionaires receive goods and services valued at R75 million a year.
Last month, I was excited to launch SANParks Vision 2040, an inclusive process where South Africans can participate in the re-imagining and co-creating of a new future for conservation in national protected areas. Given that SANParks will celebrate a century of existence in 2026, the development of Vision 2040 is a great opportunity to re-calibrate its future.
Combatting Wildlife Crime
With regards to the recent study published by ENACT on corruption and criminality in the Kruger Landscape, known as the Rademeyer Report, I am pleased to report to this House today, that the National Integrated Strategy to Combat Wildlife Crime was recently adopted by Cabinet last week.
This means the Natjoints Priority Committee on Wildlife Trafficking will now identify critical measures by all government agencies that can be implemented over the next six months.
Due to the Hluhluwe/iMfolozi Game Reserve becoming a rhino poaching hotspot, this year our Department will support Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife to combat rhino poaching and related wildlife crimes. We will also invest R40 million to improve the boundary fencing as part of our assistance.
In the Kruger Park itself we are focusing on improving the wellness and well-being of our staff so that they are not lured into the illicit trade. Measures being implemented include career path development, and training; ranger wellness and counselling programmes; improvements in staff housing and putting in place an anonymous tip-off line and setting up liaison committees with local communities.
To ensure greater safety of our visitors, the Tourism Business Council of South Africa has installed hi-tech surveillance equipment at Numbi Gate and the Kruger Lowveld Chamber of Business and Tourism is supporting a community training and development initiative to improve security around this access point. I wish to express our appreciation for the support received from these important stakeholders.
Isimangaliso Wetland Park Authority
It is almost a year since the St. Lucia Mouth estuary breached naturally. Following the 2021 artificial breaching of the St Lucia Mouth, I appointed a Panel of Experts which made recommendations related to the future management of the Park. So far we have done extensive work on developing the new Estuarine Management Plan which we expect to complete by August.
To deal with the extensive back-flooding of farmlands, a panel of environmental consultants has been appointed to conduct the necessary environmental assessment. It is estimated that the basic assessment and public consultation will be finalised within 90 days. If all goes well, this process will authorise the clearing of the levees and the canals and alleviate current and future flooding of precious farm land.
Mouse-Free Marion Project
The critically important Mouse-Free Marion Project, undertaken in partnership with BirdLife South Africa, aims to restore Marion Island, a Special Nature Reserve and Ramsar Site Wetland of International Importance, by eradicating invasive house mice from the island.
Provided Birdlife SA can raise the remaining funding from a range of interested international donors, this ambitious project is envisaged to be completed in 2025.
The first phase of removing the original, and now abandoned, meteorological research station, will commence in October this year.
Re-positioning of the National Zoological Gardens
The National Zoological Gardens in Tshwane have been incorporated into the South African National Biodiversity Institute. As part of a new repositioning strategy, we aim to modernise the zoo and enhance its role in species conservation, research, biodiversity education and public engagement, tourism and recreation.
In asserting SANBI as a leader in zoological research and conservation, investments are also being made to upgrade facilities such as laboratories, the genetic services unit, the animal hospital and a Biobank for animal tissues. This will ensure these facilities play an important role in combatting illegal wildlife trade and providing wildlife forensic services.
To enhance income-generating activities, such as the cable car, restaurant and events facilities, we are entering into private public partnerships that will also assist us to improve animal enclosures and the aquarium.
Improving Waste Management
Honourable Members, our country is faced with significant waste management challenges. These include poor landfill practices and sporadic household waste collection as well as unacceptable levels of illegal dumping in many parts of the country.
To support municipalities, our department will focus on improving cleanliness in Mafikeng, Mangaung, Bhisho, and the other Provincial capital towns as part of the re-invigorated Presidential Good Green Deeds programme.
The Expanded Public Works Programme supporting the cleaning and greening initiative by assisting in litter picking in prioritised streets; clearing illegal dumps; planting trees and promoting recycling services.
Their efforts are being complimented by the thirty-two (32) waste enterprises that have been supported to increase recycling of construction and demolition waste, plastic, packaging, and other waste streams.
It is worth noting that over the past two financial years, the Department spent over one hundred and sixty-eight million rand to assist 58 municipalities to purchase the yellow waste collection fleet.
Our Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes for paper and packaging, electrical, electronic and lighting sectors have begun the important work of diverting waste from landfill sites.
Last year over one and a half million tons of paper and packing was diverted from landfill through recycling, recovery, and treatment. Nearly nineteen thousand tons of eWaste was diverted from landfills over the same period.
The Department is strengthening compliance and enforcement measures especially against free riders that undermine our collective efforts to address waste management challenges.
The Department’s Recycling Enterprise Support Programme has, in the past six years, supported 56 start-ups and emerging SMMEs and cooperatives operating within the waste sector providing more than R300 million in financial support, creating 1558 jobs and diverting over 200 000 tonnes of waste from landfills.
Marine Living Resources
Our fishing sector is an important contributor to our economy and to the improvement of the lives of our coastal communities. In 2021, the Department received two thousand, four hundred and seventy three (2 473) applications for the allocation of commercial fishing rights across nine fishing sectors. Fishing rights were allocated to 714 rights holders across nine fisheries in February 2022.
The work to complete the 1 213 appeals against the decisions of the delegated authorities in the nine fishing sectors for the 2021/22 Fishing Rights Allocation Process (FRAP) is progressing well.
In April, the appeal decisions in the Demersal Shark Fishery, KwaZulu-Natal Crustacean Trawl Fishery, the South Coast Rock Lobster Fishery and the Traditional Line Fish Fishery were finalised. Finalisation of the squid sector will take place this month. Appeal decisions in the remaining sectors are set for finalisation by 30 October 2023.
With regard to the allocation of small-scale fishing rights for the Western Cape, the Department has rerun the process and the list of successful and unsuccessful applicants were published on 6 March.
We are now in the appeals process and we intend to finalise the allocation of 15-year fishing rights to small-scale fishing communities in the Western Cape by October 2023. This will enable a further 3 500 declared traditional small-scale fishers to directly benefit and participate in the ocean's economy.
Combating Abalone Poaching
I am pleased to announce today that we now have a draft strategy and action plan to combat trade in illegally harvested abalone which is currently in the consultation phase.
The Department is also leading the process of developing Marine Sector Plans as part of the Marine Spatial Planning process. Users of our ocean include individuals, communities, fishers, and the mining sector. Ten draft Marine Sector Plans have been published for public comment with the aim of promoting the co-existence of different sectors.
In an effort to manage competing interests in the marine environment, last year I committed to researching the impact of seismic surveys on the marine environment.
The Department has produced an assessment of international best practice in mitigating impacts of these surveys and are now determining how these can be used on local ocean areas. We are also working with the Petroleum Agency of SA and the Council for Geo Science to map historic records of seismic surveys to determine if any impact was observed during these previous surveys.
Climate Change and Air Quality
Honourable members, the published Sixth-Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, confirms the world has already warmed at an unprecedented rate and that Africa is already experiencing widespread losses and damage due to climate change.
Our country’s mitigation and adaptation architecture are at an advanced stage: we have developed the Sectoral Emission Targets that outline emission reduction goals for key sectors of the economy. We are now engaging line departments to determine the fair allocations of targets.
With respect to Carbon Budget allocation, Cabinet has approved a methodological framework to determine emissions allocation to industrial sectors for the 2023-2027 mandatory commitment period.
Parallel to this process, the Department is also developing Carbon Budget regulations that will also address the submission and processing of climate change mitigation plans to be submitted by industry.
On the adaptation front, we continue to roll out our local government support programme. In addition to assisting 44 district municipalities to develop their climate change plans we are now working with 9 provinces to review their existing climate change plans and align with the draft Climate Change Bill that parliament is currently finalising.
The South African Weather Service is in the process of automating and modernising its observations infrastructure. This includes upgrades to mitigate the effect load shedding is having on our data collection process. Increased collection and accuracy of data will ensure we can warn the public of extreme weather events in good time, saving lives and livelihoods.
We also promised through last year’s budget speech that we are working on the regulations for implementing and enforcing priority area air quality management plans. I am pleased to indicate that we have now published these regulations for public comment.
As our country faces severe load shedding, I am happy to share with you today that in our Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) section there is a project pipeline of 9789 Megawatts for renewable energy applications.
This is made up of 2899 Megawatts for Solar PV, 6890 for wind energy facilities and many of these applications include battery energy storage systems and associated transmission and distribution infrastructure. We are working hard to cut the red tape and get these projects finalised and in this regard, we have reduced our decision making timeframes from 107 days to 57 days.
Grid capacity is a major constraint to scaling up the energy transition and that is a view across the board with consensus from stakeholders, government, business, labour, and civil society. Grid capacity is a national priority to solve, not only for our transition needs but also for our short-term emergency to solve load-shedding. We have fifteen EIA applications relating to transmission and distribution infrastructure which we are also prioritising for decision-making.
Honourable members, in recent times concern has been expressed that as we battle load shedding, we are considering delays in decommissioning aging coal-fired power stations. Government is clear that we must battle both load shedding and climate change. It is not a one or the other decision.
Current modelling will advise how we balance our decommissioning schedule so we can achieve energy security within the context of our climate change commitments and air quality improvement.
Honourable house chair,
As I conclude our last budget vote speech for the sixth administration, allow me to borrow the words articulated by the first environmentalist and African woman to receive a Noble Laureate, Wangari Maathai who said, “I’m very conscious of the fact that you can’t do it alone. It’s teamwork. When you do it alone you run the risk that when you are no longer there, nobody else will do it.”
Let me thank our team who has worked so hard to enhance our environmental obligations: Honourable Modise and the Portfolio Committee for their consistent oversight; the scientific experts and stakeholders who advise me on many complex environmental matters; my wonderful Deputy Minister, Ms Makhotso Sotyu; our Director General Ms Nomfundo Tshabalala; Team DFFE which includes over 3327 officials throughout the country, the Board members and CEOs of SAWS, Isimangaliso, SANBI and Sanparks for all their dedication to environmental matters, and the sustainable use of our country’s natural resources.
I thank you.