Managed Precinct Sustainability Projects

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VALUE THEY CAN BRING TO COMMUNITIES DELIVERED THROUGH PUBLIC PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP
27 October 2011
(Updated 13 June 2012)
 

1. Introduction
 

Throughout the world, the abilities of Local Government to continue to deliver high levels of service across all areas is being challenged by many varied social and economic factors. Nowhere is this more evident than in South Africa and eThekwini especially where limited resources are being channelled into rolling out service delivery into previously under and unserviced areas. Managed Precincts (i.e. Management Associations, Urban Improvement Precincts, Special Ratings Areas, Priority Zones, etc) are a mechanism increasingly being used to manage areas positively and provide additional top-up services, paid for by way of levies, by those who benefit from them through enjoying a potentially higher quality and value urban environment. The benefits of this, while not being the purpose of this report, are many and varied including improved investment and retention/growth of property values, which in turn increase tax income for both national and local authorities.
 
Managed Precincts have on occasion however, been considered by local government to be elitist and exclusionary, serving the interests only of the well to do middle classes. The purpose of this report is to highlight how the opposite can in fact be the case. An inclusionary approach to managed precincts as taken by SID Urban Management (Pty) Ltd, is one which recognises communities, both within and neighbouring respective precincts, and embraces their varied relationships and involvement in each precinct. This is further leveraged by engaging in positive Public Private Partnerships (PPP's) with Local Government and private companies, where Management Associations can act as both facilitator and active participant. Examples of Sustainability Projects both delivered and planned will be briefly described, highlighting current and future challenges, as well as noting respective liaisons and local authority departments.
The majority of these projects have been planned and tested within Riverhorse Valley Business Estate by the RHVBE Management Association in association with SID Urban Management. The belief is that as each is piloted, refined and delivered here, they can be considered for replication elsewhere where appropriate.
 

2. Wetland Rehabilitation
 
 
As a Riverhorse Valley Business Estate (RHVBE) – eThekwini Public-Private Partnership Project, bulk earthworks for the rehabilitation of 41 hectares of wetland along the Umhlangane River (previously under sugar cultivation but lying fallow since the development of the area) within Riverhorse Valley Business Estate is to commence shortly, funded to a large degree by eThekwini's Coastal, Stormwater & Catchment Management Dept ( foreign funding from the City of Bremen in Germany as part of eThekwini's developing relationship with partner cities has not been successful). Currently the project is awaiting DAEA approval before work can commence on site.
 
Completion of the project and ongoing maintenance (including clearing of alien invasive species) will be funded by RHVBE Management Association funds. Efforts are also underway to secure maintenance funding from corporate donors resident within RHVBE, international donors accessed via both COP17 visitors and the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry's Environmental Committee, as well as National Government's Extended Public Works Programme.
 
RHVBEMA recently participated in two full day workshops arranged by the City, evaluating the entire Umhlangane River catchment area and developing scenarios for both environmental and social benefit.
 
eThekwini's Gary Cullen (031 311 4235 – Economic Development Unit) and Geoff Tooley (031 311 7271 – Water Engineering) have been pivotal in this project.
 

3. Tree Planting Programme
 

In additional to the RHVBEMA's extensive ongoing public area landscape maintenance operations (including alien invasive species removal), a sum of R750 000 project funding has been allocated to be spent by the RHVBEMA over a period of 3 years, to plant new indigenous trees within the riverine environment alongside the Umhlangane River. This is being supplemented by "offset taxes” imposed by RHVBEMA on top structure developers who were unable to fully comply with their internal landscaping requirements per the RHVBE Design Code. The first phase of this planting carried out in Spring 2012 is complete, taking advantage of good soil and moisture conditions. Phase 2 and if necessary Phase 3 will roll out in Spring 2012 and 2013 respectively.
All plants have been sourced from small growers within the region, ensuring direct economic benefit to these growing communities. Access to trees sourced in a similar way in the future with the possibility of a Tongaat Hulett initiated nursery on the Umhlodti stable site, will assist here as well as assist in ensuring viability of such a nursery.
 
Tongaat Hulett Developments, Musa Shabane (031 560 1900) is promoting the Nursery project.
 
The RHVBEMA hopes to access additional project labour for the planting seasons during 2012 & 2013 by way of the National Government's Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP). Support by eThekwini of this application will be of great value.
 

4. Urban Trail Network
 

RHVBEMA is an active participant in the City's Green Corridor Programme, with the view that riverside trails as recently mapped by a specialist tour guide on behalf of eThekwini, will form part of a larger trail network linking the mouth of the Umgeni (Green Hub building) to RHVBE and Bridge City beyond, as a tributary of its main focus linking Inanda Dam to the Umgeni river mouth. These will be used by trail runners, walkers, mountain bikers and bird watchers along its length with both active and passive recreation supported. Importantly it is also anticipated that it will provide a traffic free route for communities along its length using non-motorised transport (bicycles), to access employment opportunities within the Durban CBD or other suburbs/zones along the Corridor, e.g. Bridge City & Phoenix Industrial Park.
 
The long term vision of RHVBE is to develop additional complementary trails which can be seen as an extension and integrated part of Durban's Green Corridor Programme, to be used for both active and passive recreational pursuits. It is also envisaged that parts of these trails will enable access into densely vegetated areas in order to facilitate identification and removal of alien invasive plant species.
 
It is our vision therefore to introduce an additional set of trails within the boundaries of RHVBE, creating an urban trail network which will attract users from within the daytime business community (before work, lunch time and after work), as well as those users residing in the various neighbouring residential communities, some of whom already make use of the informal trails.
 
A specialist trail design and building company has been commissioned to investigate and design a masterplan for potential trails and routes within RHVBE complementary with the Green Corridor, with an emphasis on Huletts Bush. The design is now finalised and funding is to be sourced for construction of these trails. They will be constructed using local labour as has been done with the 110km of trail introduced by eThekwini around Inanda Dam. Trail maintenance and security are to be provided with assistance of local labour from Quarry Heights and Simms Place informal settlements in the form of "Trail Rangers”. This is consistent with our vision at RHVBEMA to encourage and facilitate regular use of this riverine environment by members of adjacent communities as well as create employment opportunities which are meaningful and sustainable.
 
The clearing of areas of bush and trees to facilitate the creation of trails within Hullets Bush, will be done with a view to removing alien invasive plant species and as such, provide an environmental benefit to the area. This vision will continue post completion where Trail Rangers
will be involved with trail maintenance and invasive clearing on an ongoing basis.
 
Regarding access and indemnity, an option is to align the proposed trails with those on Tongaat Hulett sugarcane farmland north of Umhlanga & Mt Edgecombe, where access is strictly governed by the Ethekwini Mountain Bike Association (EMBA) on condition that each rider sign an annual indemnity and is identified by a uniquely numbered board. This would be preferable to setting up an independent process specifically for RHVBEMA. Suitably worded signage at all access points would need to point out that use of the trails implies acceptance of risk by users in order to protect the City, RHVBEMA and any other parties (e.g. sponsors/funders). Despite these disclaimers, the entire project is based on having sufficient measures in place to provide a reasonable level of safety for users, without which the project will not succeed.
 

5. International Coastal Cleanup Day
 

RHVBEMA for the 3rd year hosted its annual river cleanup along stretches of the Umhlangane (Friday 16 September 2011), the afternoon prior to the International Coastal Cleanup Day. This was supported by RHVBE businesses and Schools which enthusiastically participate each year. (This has been extended to include recycling education and provision of collection bins at Quarry Heights Primary school itself).

The purpose is many fold, including educating school children about the impact of littering and its environmental cost, as well as encouraging RHVBE businesses to engage first hand with the river that many have views of but don't yet access as a recreational opportunity. By hosting on the Friday prior to the Saturday coastal cleanup (in addition to making it attractive and accessible to businesses and schools), it highlights the importance of treating the problems of littering at their source rather than merely attending to the effect of this and the need to clean up the coastline of litter, much of which is carried to the coast via rivers. As many schools become involved in the river clean up this year, we staggered the sessions and separated school (morning) and corporate (afternoon) participation to allow a meaningful opportunity for all participants. Umgeni Water and Durban Solid Waste representatives gave short lectures to learners to add to the learning experience.
 

6. Schools Open Classroom
 

Our involvement with other schools in adjacent communities is growing with a vision that the natural riverine areas within RHVBE be accessible to school groups as an open classroom for experiential learning appropriate to their various curricula. This concept was presented to the Principals Forum made up of approximately 20 local school leaders who meet regularly, and was positively viewed. Our long term view is to provide a small classroom type structure which can be used to reinforce the Open Classroom activity.
 
 
7. Water Quality Testing
 

In addition to liaising with eThekwini's water quality testing operations, RHVBEMA have commenced its own supplementary water quality testing, the results of which are shared with eThekwini on a monthly basis. Readings taken at 3 points along the Umhlangane River within RHVBE allows us to monitor water quality overall and could highlight potential upstream infringements by businesses or facilities discharging illegally, and provide appropriate support for effective enforcement. Water quality testing may well form part of school curricula and could be one aspect of experiential learning carried out in our open classrooms.
Liaison – Mlungisi Mahlobo, Pollution and Environment Branch, eThekwini Water and Sanitation, 031 311 8735
 

8. Informal Vendors
 

Informal vendors are accommodated at designated locations within the Estate and provide a valuable retail service to much of the pedestrian traffic as workers make their way both to and from their places of work. Awarding of permits is controlled by the City's Small Business Support Unit who also assist with enforcement if required.

RHVBEMA is attempting to source shelter of a uniform type for the sites, creating a more structured perception and branding for the Estate. Efforts are underway to recycle unused vendor/bus shelters from elsewhere in the city.

Liaison – Justice Dlamini, eThekwini Small Business Development Unit, 031 311 4612.
 

9. Metrorail
 

The Effingham Station falls within the boundaries of RHVBE and has become one of their most profitable in eThekwini with in excess of 6000 journeys/passengers passing through per day. Collaboration with Metrorail, the managers of the Effingham Station has been initiated on various occasions with a view to amongst other projects, synchronising their security service on the station platform with backup from the RHVBEMA CCTV control room and rapid response vehicle, recycle the station's collected litter as part of RHVBEMA's wider litter picking and recycling programme, as well as co-ordinating their landscaping service with that of the RHVBEMA to facilitate alien invasive species removal and maintenance. The RHVBEMA was advised that the pedestrian bridge which only provides access to the platform from one side (Corobrick Road) and is in need of structural maintenance was to be upgraded or replaced. Unfortunately all promises to liaise with RHVBEMA in this regard have not been fulfilled, as has been the case with the various other initiatives being driven by RHVBEMA.
 

10. Sportsfield Rehabilitation
 
 
An aspect missing from the original design for RHVBE was the provision of suitable active recreational areas for staff of the many businesses resident here. There is an active football league with highly competitive matches being played between teams representing various companies within RHVBE. To assist with providing a suitable nearby facility on which these matches can be played, the RHVBEMA initiated talks with eThekwini's Parks, Leisure & Cemeteries Dept with a view to assisting to enhance and maintain the public sports field on the northern side of RHVBE. Agreement was reached for the RHVBEMA to fund various project components (construct pedestrian access to the field from parking area, levelling and improving of pitch surface and litter/rubble cleaning, plumbing irrigation infrastructure, combined with visiting the area by the security patrol vehicle as part of its routine patrols, provision of signage and goalposts). In return, eThekwini would upgrade the field previously a "kick-about” which only got mowed monthly and was not marked, to "soccer field” on their asset list with weekly mowing and marking to enable proper football matches to be held not just by the staff teams but also neighbouring schools and sports clubs, with booking being carried out by the Parks, Leisure and Cemeteries Dept as is the norm.

Sadly participation by Parks, Leisure and Cemeteries has been poor and communication difficult although we are still hopeful in completing this project for the benefit of various communities.
 
Victor Chetty, eThekwini Parks, Leisure & Cemeteries, 031 311 6976.
 

11. Public Transport
 

Public transport service into this relatively recently developed precinct was always envisaged to be provided by minibus taxis. Currently 3 Taxi Associations converge on RHVBE, bringing associated political tension between them. We have through eThekwini Transport Authority (ETA) attempted to facilitate a co-ordinated taxi service to assist public transport users who work within RHVBE and have need of their services. This process commenced in 2009 and despite several efforts to highjack it for purposes of fulfilling personal agenda and route control, we believe we are very close to having a functioning service evenly supported by the 3 converging taxi associations, improving service to the daytime community of RHVBE who need to get to and from their places of work.
We are also attempting to have the 3 representative associations provide a daytime internal service to allow train commuters to easily and cost effectively access their places of work, although fresh energy will be put into this initiative once the main routes are finally approved by authorities.

Beyond this, suggestions regarding suitable positions of taxi lay byes by RHVBEMA have been made to ETA in order enable budgeting and provision for this essential component without adding to current peak time road congestion.
 

12. Walk to Work Initiative
 

This initiative is borne from efforts to connect unemployed members of communities neighbouring on RHVBE, with work opportunities potentially offered by businesses here. Following various interactions with local Ward Councillors and community representatives, we have collected a database of candidates who comply with the requirement that they live close enough that they could "Walk to Work”. This is not only practical and convenient for employers and employees alike, but it is also consistent with current town planning strategy to locate people near to where they might work. Success has been achieved with the placement of a small number of candidates with service providers who contract with RHVBEMA. We envisage further placements of candidates with RHVBE businesses in the future.

Our next step is to synchronise these CV's with eThekwini's online jobs portal, retaining their geographic criteria, but increasing their visibility to a wider audience.
 

13. BEE Certification
 

SID Urban Management together with Tongaat Hullet Developements, with support from Garlicke & Bousefield Attorneys, are currently exploring the Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) certification of Management Associations, of which RHVBEMA will be a pilot. Once certified, all donor project funding by private entities channelled via Management Associations, will be eligible for earning of BEE points to be used in mandatory annual submissions by companies above the specified threshold. It is anticipated that this will filter down to allow the earning of BEE points to all property owners through the process of paying their monthly levies. This could assist greatly in the structuring of Public Private Partnerships for projects within RHVBE.
 

14.Other
 

a. Mobile Optometry
The Specsavers mobile optometry van has been used to provide an occasional service for the benefit of employees here providing a convenient service.
 
b. Mobile Banking
We sadly have not been successful in engaging any of the major banks to regularly position their van based mobile ATM's within RHVBE for the benefit of workers here. This has been enormously frustrating as it would be great time saver for staff and their employers as there is no ATM service in the area with the exception of the hospital which is not practical for users on the Eastern side of the Precinct. This is despite it being a weekday suggestion when the ATM vehicles are in low use.
 
The two filling stations planned to be developed within RHVBE will include ATM facilities which should solve this problem in time.
 
c. Clinic
Mobile clinics were carried out in the past, similar to the optometric visits. These no longer are required as the service has been taken up by the clinic in an adjacent neighbourhood.

d. Lower mNgeni Catchment Management Forum
Members of the RHVBEMA management team actively attend and participate in the Lower mNgeni Catchment Management Forum, a cross departmental initiative run by eThekwini. This has been a valuable platform to highlight various initiatives driven by RHVBEMA and to engage with representatives from associated local and provincial organisations which represent the interests of this river and its catchment areas.

e. eThekwini Environmental Team
Similarly, the RHVBEMA is represented at meetings of the cross departmental eThekwini Environmental Team which focuses on environmental issues and education of learners amongst other goals.
 

15. Conclusion
 

Managed Precincts such as Riverhorse Valley Business Estate are centres of excellence, achieved not just through the provision of topup services to augment those provided by the City, and importantly not achieved by excluding or marginalising outsiders. Excellence is achieved rather through an inclusive approach which recognises the interests of the property owning community, the daytime working community, and those of neighbouring suburbs who in some cases become Riverhorse Valley's weekend community. This vision is consistent with that of Local Authorities across the country and in fact the world, lending Managed Precincts in their various forms to be used as a vehicles for improving the quality of life for all these communities through both the delivery of high quality urban environments and associated sustainable projects, often by way of shared responsibilities in the form of Public Private Partnerships.