It has taken environmentalists nine long years, but they have finally secured an almost pristine Umzumbe coastal property, described by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife as a ‘microcosm of the original South Coast landscape’, reports the South Coast Herald.
There were celebrations all round when the transfer of Rem of Portion 25 of the Farm Fairview No. 15590 Umzumbe, in name of the KwaZulu-Natal Nature Conservation Board, was registered last month, bringing it into the Ezemvelo fold and affording it conserved status.
According to Ezemvelo, the 18 hectare property, known as Fairview, falls within an internationally recognised floral hotspot and is a mosaic of grassland, bush clumps, coastal forest, swamps, wetland, including seeps and flood plain and ‘estuarine’ habitat.
Years ago, the late Rob Scott-Shaw, an Ezemvelo plant ecologist, recognised the environmental importance of Fairview and its intact habitats, particularly in light of the great destruction of natural landscape this area’s coastline was seeing. He deemed Fairview to be particularly valuable and worthy of the highest form of protection.
In 2011, Fairview made national news when the KwaZulu-Natal’s (KZN) environmental affairs department, guided by Ezemvelo, issued an environmental refusal for the development of a residential estate on the property. At the time of the refusal, the department recommended Ezemvelo in conjunction with the Hibiscus Coast Municipality investigate options for securing the property and neighbouring properties for long-term conservation.
In a story entitled Landmark Green Decision Lauded, which the South Coast Herald ran in July 2011, it was reported that it had taken Ezemvelo scientists four years of research to achieve this landmark environmental refusal.
They had been motivated by a growing sense of urgency to preserve critical ecosystems in the province. At that time more than 72% of the South Coast’s coastal belt had been adversely transformed.
Regarding the precious South Coast grassland the property boasted, only 1.3% of this critically endangered ecosystem was then formally protected in KZN, with less than 20% of it remaining.
The site was regarded as having an extremely high conservation importance because of its grassland, its species richness, its habitat diversity, the presence of red list species and because of the excellent condition of its vegetation.
The landmark 2011 environmental decision earned applause all round, but for conservationists the battle was far from over. It was to take them another five years before Fairview would be brought into the conservation fold and for them to be able to proclaim the long-term protection of this valuable site as a real environmental victory.
It was Scott-Shaw’s vision that Fairview would be a part of the the State’s protected area network to cater primarily for environmental education and research, involving not only school groups and tertiary education institutions, but floral enthusiasts and birders.
With Ezemvelo securing Fairview for future generations, this aim now seems attainable.