Drakenstein Municipality: Driving local economic stimulus

Alongside the provision of day to day activities and services, the modern municipality also has to be prepared for the unexpected – and have the resources to deal with potential disasters. Such was the need at Drakenstein Municipality in January 2017, when a Paarl wildfire threatened local vineyards and olive groves.

The Drakenstein Municipality fire chief‚ Derick Damons‚ said that more than 200 fire fighters were involved in the battle to combat the flames and thankfully, it was later confirmed that the impact on local olive production would not be as impaired as had appeared likely.

Drakenstein Local Municipality is a Category B municipality and forms part of the Cape Winelands District Municipality (which also includes the Category B municipalities of Stellenbosch, Breede Valley, Witzenberg and Langeberg). It stretches from just south of the N1 freeway, including Simondium in the south, up to and including Saron in the north.

According to the Census of 2011, Drakenstein Local Municipality has a total population of 251,262, with challenges typical of most regions, including low levels of completed education.

Tourism remains an important aspect of the local economy, as the official website describes:

Only 56 kilometres from Cape Town, Paarl offers historical charm, culture, architectural heritage, wine and fruit farms, breathtaking scenery and many cycling and nature trails.  The magnificent countryside, good wines and friendly people welcome you to a town where a feeling of tranquillity still transcends modern day living.

“Paarl offers many attractions – from visits to the Afrikaans Language Monument, the youngest language in the world and Paarl Mountain, with its rocks which are remains of granites which rose and broke through slate and sandstone formations about 500 million years ago, to sampling some local olive oil.

“Opening in late 2008, the first phase of Paarl’s exciting new heritage tourism venue, De Poort Heritage Village, is almost complete. Visitors can observe heritage artisans; see a forge in operation; try out the skill of the blacksmith and watch a cooper or farrier. The Drakenstein Heemkring archive is housed in De Oude Woning in Paarl. The collection includes valuable manuscripts, photographs, books, genealogical records and research on original Huguenot farms.

“Paarl has a large area of unspoilt natural beauty at its doorstep.  The Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve has a picturesque landscape of fynbos vegetation dominated by massive rounded granite rock formations set among wild olives, rock candlewoods and wagon trees.  Fishing, hiking, picnics, climbing and mountain biking is possible.

“In addition to the many various delights to the visitor, Paarl houses the headquarters of a number of large agricultural, manufacturing and financial companies and some of the oldest schools in the Cape are found here.  Paarl is the home to the Boland Cricket Park which hosts international events.

“The town made headlines when President Mandela was released from the Victor Verster Prison, on the outskirts of town, to freedom and the start of the new South Africa.

“The historic town of Wellington nestles at the foot of the Groenberg, in a picturesque valley including the well-known Bainskloof Pass. This pass was surveyed and built by Andrew Geddes Bain, using convict labour and primitive tools to hack and blast the way through almost impossible terrain.”

Back in 2013 the Local and Economic Development and Tourism unit embarked on an overhaul of its key economic development priorities as it sought to enhance Investment Job creation; Domestic and Foreign Investment; Urban Renewal; Skills Development; Rural Economic Development; and, Facilitating Trade and Industry and a strong drive to build existing sectors and encourage the development of new sectors in our area.

“Our approach to Local Economic Development is that economic development is not a linear approach but rather the outcome of a complex set of relationships which involve managing the key components of production and relying heavily on how the local communities and private sector respond to these interventions. We are therefore pleased that as a Municipality we have identified the following catalytic LED projects to position Drakenstein Municipality as an investment destination of choice,” states the official website.

“Review of the LED Strategy – this process started in 2013 and culminated into the establishment of a bi-annual event where MAYCO meets the business sector to share important information on progress with regard to Economic Development and overall growth of the Municipality. The inaugural event was held on the 23rd of June 2015 where we shared the proposed LED Implementation plan which emanated from the review process.

“The Municipality is also in the process of expanding the network of information sharing through the development of a concept called “Drakenstein in Conversation”. Here the objective is to broaden and strengthen our interactions with key interest groups in the Drakenstein area including civil society.  Through this process the unit will focus on driving good LED governance and strong external and internal collaboration to drive the following “Game- Changer projects in the area.

“Establishing Urban Development Zones and Special Rating Areas in key growth areas of Drakenstein: we are in the process of establishing the  Paarl CBD as an Urban Development Zone through an application to the National Department of Treasury.

“Implementing a Business Retention and Expansion Strategy for Vlakkeland industrial area as our main industrial node in Drakenstein.

“Acknowledging the significant contribution that the Informal Economy contributes to our local GDP and facilitating key enablers to grow this sector.

“Creating an investment ready environment to ensure that Drakenstein becomes the investment destination of choice in Cape Winelands: here we will focus on collaborating with our Infrastructure services department to facilitate the provision of fast and reliable broadband for the area. We are at the conceptual phase of this project and we are confident that this will be one of the most important game changers for the Drakenstein area,” the corporate website explains.

In the early weeks of 2017, Drakenstein Municipality announced proposals to develop a new waste-to-energy facility, in response to growing concerns that it was running out of landfill air space;.

The municipality’s intentions to introduce the new facility are on the basis that the business of local recycling and waste service providers will not be affected.

“The proposed facility aims to operate alongside local waste service providers in a way that will ensure their access to the local recyclable waste stream is not hindered,” municipal manager, Lauren Waring stated.

“Every municipality has informal waste pickers and local recycling groups who are already working in this space, therefore, this has been carefully considered in the design and operation of the facility.”

The municipality recently entered into a Public Private Partnership agreement with Interwaste. This partnership is aimed at “adopting an internationally proven approach of deferring the waste that would have gone to landfill into a facility that can derive value from it,” Waring explained.

The municipality said the proposed project has recognised municipal waste as a potential resource, instead of a liability – one that can be beneficially recovered.

“This forms the basis of the Material Recovery Facility (MRF) which will be the first operation of the proposed facility focused on separating the recyclable waste fraction from the non-recyclables,” Waring explained.

The municipality said the recoverable materials stream which provides valuable business for local recycling and waste management entities will not be impacted at all by the project as it is not part of the collected municipal waste stream.

“An attempt to separate waste at the source in order to contribute to the efficiency of the MRF will look at the continued PPP roll out of the recycling system, which will in turn create employment opportunities and jobs for local entrepreneurs,” Leon Grobbelaar, director of facilities management at Interwaste said.