Knysna Municipality: Size no barrier to big plans

All across South Africa municipalities are working hard to deliver economic prosperity and a bright future for their inhabitants. The challenge remains the same in smaller municipalities just as it does in the major cities.

Knysna Local Municipality is a municipality part of Eden District Municipality located in the Western Cape Province and in 2011 had a population of 68,659.

Most of the residents of the municipality live in the town of Knysna, which is situated on the shores of the Kynsna Lagoon. In all, the municipality covers an area of 1,109 square kilometres between the Indian Ocean and the Outeniqua Mountains around the town of Knysna.

Despite the relatively small size of the municipality in the grander picture, Kynsna Municipality is highly committed to improving the lives of its residents, as its website explains:

“The economy is about how wealth is created, distributed and consumed. It concerns the ways in which a country produces, distributes and consumes the tangible, material commodities of life. It is also about how the proceeds or income from these activities are distributed amongst those who contribute towards them: businesses, workers, the state and the whole of society.

Every person affects the economy in some way and we are all affected by it.

shutterstock_110500661“The next decade represents a critical period of change for the Knysna economy. Increasingly, we will be affected by major long-term global trends including: intensified competition from emerging economies like China and India; rising energy costs; ICT-driven disruptive innovations; and demographic changes, especially ageing and the pace of population growth.

“The community, industry and governments, together, face a range of opportunities and challenges – only by working more closely together can we most effectively address them. Knysna Municipality is dedicated to ensure that a conducive environment is created to promote economic growth and development of all residents and businesses. This key objective will be lead by the Economic Development Department who focuses on promoting economic growth, job creation, reducing poverty and monitoring inequalities.

“Currently the Knysna Local Economic Strategy is being revised as part of the Integrated Strategic Development Framework (ISDF) conceptualisation. The focus will be on ensuring that Knysna has an economic future and that investments are made in human capital, physical infrastructure and leading and emerging enterprises.”

The efforts are already keenly felt and in November, the innovation demonstrated was rewarded when Knysna Municipality received 3 awards at the award ceremony for the Western Cape Greenest Municipality of the Year held in Stellenbosch.

Municipal Manager Lauren Waring said she was extremely proud of their achievements. “Not

only did we receive the second runner-up award as Greenest Municipality of the Year, we also received Certificates for Outstanding Achievement as the category winners for Waste Management and Water Conservation, and Most Innovative for our Green Rebate initiative.”

Waring said there were a variety of factors that played a role in achieving the awards which included strategic planning, waste minimisation, operations and management, monitoring, financial planning, effluent management, emergency planning, water balance and water conservation, public awareness and educational programmes.

“The Green Rebate initiative launched by the Finance Department earned us the Innovation award. This rebate gives you 30 per cent discount on your rates if set criteria are met, which apply to residential estates or registered Private Nature Reserves.”

In announcing the 2014/15 Budget for Knysna, Executive Mayor Georlene Wolmarans said:

“In Knysna, we have worked hard to make a positive contribution towards the lives of all our residents. To create a town where people and nature prosper.

“The voters noticed that we were rated as one of the top 10 municipalities in terms of productivity, that our Integrated Development Plan has been commended by the Western Cape government as best practice, and subscribed to others to be used as “best practice”.”

Environmental considerations did not escape the notice of Councillor Wolmarans either:

“When one of our main natural assets was under threat not long ago, we formulated the Knysna Estuary pollution plan. Local estuary expert, Professor Brian Allanson, said that the current Knysna Municipality has done more towards protecting the Knysna lagoon than any other in recent history.

“Some of the interventions actioned were the R40 million upgrade of the Waste Water Works; the remedial work on aging sewers and storm water pipes, and the upgrade of critical pump stations.

“Always aware of the fact that we have to look after our natural assets, we adopted an Air Quality Strategy and Management plan in conjunction with Eden District Municipality. As part of the ISDF we are undertaking a Climate Change Adaptation Strategy and a Strategic Environmental Assessment and we implemented waste minimisation strategies, including up-scaling of recycling programs.

“Eco-friendly building regulations were also implemented. We have launched an e-Waste

recycling project that includes open days at main centres and a free collections container in Knysna.

“By 2016 it is anticipated that we will be able to implement a new Integrated Waste Management Plan. This plan is aimed at waste minimisation, managing the impact of waste on the total receiving environment over the entire waste circle which includes waste generation, storage, collection, transportation, treatment and disposal of waste.

“Water is and will remain one of our most precious natural resources. It is one of our core objectives to ensure all residents have access to potable water. Sometimes the demand is far more than the supply.

“To fulfil this objective we are working on and upgrading the Ruigtevlei main water line, the Charlesford line and the North/North East line which supply the Northern Areas.

“New water pumps were installed in Hornlee and the Heads and we are refurbishing the Glebe Dam; Civil, mechanical and electrical work on the Rheenendal water augmentation project has started. A new bulk water pipeline will be installed for Sedgefield and regular maintenance is done on

the desalination plants.

shutterstock_157780337“As we all know electricity supply in South Africa is under major pressure. Eskom has upgraded the supply cable to Knysna, but we have to look at alternative technology to ensure future supply, and we are investigating various options. We installed 16 high masts during the last 3 years and Gert Masena of the Concordia Neighbourhood Watch said the installation of these high masts made a tremendous contribution towards creating a safer environment for residents.

“In the new financial year we will, amongst other initiatives, commence with Phase 1 (tender and ground work) of the installation of a new 20MVA 66/11kV transformer at Intake Sub Station and the 300mm² cable between Sedgefield Intake and Sedgefield East Sub Station will be extended.

“A total of 53 kilometres of gravel roads and 241 kilometres of tarred roads connect the greater Knysna Municipal area. Over the last 3 years over R23 million has been spent on road upgrades and repairs and in excess of R3 million on new sidewalks. To make our roads safer in the Northern areas guardrails will be installed. In future roads will be maintained according to a grading system that will be applied from the new financial year.

“Also looking after our human assets, our residents, we have delivered 3,500 Breaking New Ground serviced sites and over 1 800 housing units through the different accommodation options available during the last 5 year IDP cycle. This is 360 housing units per year, nearly 1 per day!

“The housing programme is one of this municipality’s biggest challenges, but in some ways also the most rewarding. 100 per cent of the DoRA allocation provided by Provincial Government for housing in the 2012/2013 financial year was spent.

“According to the latest GGP figures tourism and financial services contribute 49 per cent of local GGP. The latest consensus from all role-players in Knysna is that this latest holiday period was one of the best in living memory. The collapsing rand meant that South African citizens holidayed and spent their money locally. Conversely overseas visitors are attracted because of the cheap rand, and to Knysna in particular because of good marketing. In this regard the impact of the World Cup in 2010 and the fact that Knysna successfully hosted two European countries cannot be over-emphasised and is now paying off.”

Knysna may be a relatively small municipality but it has big plans, backed up by big actions.