Msunduzi Municipality-owned forest to be leased
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Durban: THE Msunduzi Municipality has resolved to lease out its embattled forestry business for the next 30 years.
The councillors took the resolution during a full council meeting this week.
The municipality has been concerned about the state of their forests and has lost millions of rand in potential revenue due to its mismanagement.
The Mercury reported earlier this year that due to mounting problems and threats posed by the municipality’s ownership of the forests, it was considering leasing them out, and had even been advised to sell them outright.
The report, tabled before full council, looked at the different problems within the unit, said the termination of the forestry management contract between the municipality and a service provider in January 2017, and the failure to appoint a forestry board had made the management of the forest volatile.
“An internal audit investigation on the plantation presented viable forestry management options that the unit can explore,” it said.
It said the private-public partnership was the way to resolve the challenges, saying due to limited funding and increasing constraints, many government departments were looking into different models of private-public partnership as a means of maintaining infrastructure without having to make large investments.
“Currently, there is no direct management overseeing the forestry operations. The ownership of the plantation is a volatile operation that requires 24-hour care and surveillance.
“Unattended plantations attract a grave risk of theft and vandalism. Looting and arson incidents have taken place in the municipal plantation of Richmond Municipality, and at the state forestry at kwaGubeshe, under the Msunduzi Municipality.
“Also, in the absence of a qualified forester, managing our plantation and non-implementation of our annual plan of operation invalidates the forestry insurance policy,” it warned.
The report said the plantation is worth R80 million and is a going concern.
“Obsolescence and depreciation are sure to happen if not managed properly, the exacerbating factor is that the municipal plantation is in an urban forestry area surrounded by up-market residential areas and we have been on high alert for fire and theft of timber.
“Council will be exposed to litigation should any disaster occur, and insurance will refute claims on the grounds of negligence,” it said.
ACDP councillor Rienus Niemand said the forests should be given to qualified individuals who would manage them well.
“Not be given to someone who will loot it, we have lost millions of rand because of looting,” Nemand said.
ANC councillor Linda Madlala said that while there were other available options to manage the forests, leasing them out was the best model.
“We should be specific and state that we are leasing out the forest for the next 30 years. We know that we do not have the technical expertise to run the forest,” he said.