The hotly contested on public recreational beach driving is here to stay. This is according to environmental affairs and tourism minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk, whose final decision on the issue follows the findings of a study commissioned to test the validity of public statements and perceptions concerning the positive and negative effects of the existing beach-driving ban for recreational purposes that was introduced in December 2001.
The study, which reported on the ecological and socioeconomic impacts of the ban, showed that maintaining the ban was the best decision to protect the environment while also supporting sustainable development and tourism growth. Greater St Lucia Wetland Park of KwaZulu-Natal was used as a case study. “While there may have been an initial negative economic impact by the beach-driving ban, it is clear that this trend has reversed and the stage is set for further growth,” Van Schalkwyk said. “In fact, there is conclusive proof that several businesses have been successful at capturing new niche markets, including the lucrative ecotourism market.”
The report added that future tourism and investment planning would no longer have to contend with any uncertainty regarding public recreational driving in SA, and that there was now clarity regarding the legislative and regulatory context in which planning frameworks and investment strategies could be developed to further promote ecotourism associated with the greater coastal landscape of the country.
C EO of the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park Authority, Andrew Zaloumis, said he was glad a final decision had been reached as it cleared up any uncertainty regarding potential ecotourism investment opportunities that had hinged on the outcome of the report. “From an ecological conservation viewpoint, we feel that the decision is also very positive,” said Zaloumis. – Lloyd Phillips