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IOLProperty - South African Property For Sale
Tuesday Nov 20, 2012

Environmentalists check up on Cape film studios

Urgent discussions between planners and environmental consultants for the Cape Town Film Studios are under way to resolve a survey discrepancy over the boundaries of highly sensitive wetlands on the site in Faure.

Cape Town Film Studios chief executive Nico Dekker, freshwater ecology specialist Dr Liz Day, left, and water scientist Dr Dana Grobler on an onsite visit to inspect the wetland conservation area in Faure

And film studio chief executive Nico Dekker told a meeting of government officials, scientists, environmental consultants and conservationists that the company was committed to working legally and correctly, and would rehabilitate any areas that had been mistakenly damaged.

The wetlands must be protected in terms of the 2006 environmental approval for the R320 million film studio development that opened in December 2010. They were supposed to have been fenced off from the outset but weren't.

Recently, the studio started building a "backlot" in terms of its approved development plan, pegging off this area according to a 2008 sub-division diagram by the surveyor-general.

But this sub-division survey does not coincide with the protected conservation area indicated on the diagram of the approved development framework, and so a significant portion of what is known as "dune slack wetland" was cleared by a bulldozer.

The film company conceded that the bulldozer driver had also overshot even its own pegs in four places - one of them a critical section of wetland of about 20m x 6m.

Following a complaint to environmental authorities by freshwater ecologist specialist Dr Liz Day, Dekker hosted a meeting and site visit on Friday. Present were Day, environmental inspectors from the Department of Water Affairs, a city environmental official, the studio's environmental consultants, the site engineer and two freshwater scientists invited by the studio.

Before going on site, Dekker told the meeting that productions hosted by the company had already brought a R1.3 billion investment to South Africa, most of it in the Western Cape, and provided jobs for 29 000 people.

The company was committed to respecting the conditions set out in the environmental Record of Decision and welcomed appropriate criticism and assistance from environmentalists.

"My dream is to create the biggest green studios in the world. This is a unique operation, there's not another kind of set-up like this in Africa," said Dekker.

"I'm open and committed to doing the right thing - take action against us if we do things wrong."

Patrick Dowling of Wessa described the meeting as "reasonably positive".

He said first, the approved development footprint had to be clarified, the environmental monitoring committee established and the damaged wetland rehabilitated, he said.

"Then one can start looking at the broader land use issues in the area and at the other property owners."

Cape Argus

 
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