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Monday May 21, 2012

Marina facelift to give Durban 'global flair'

Urban planner, city architect, master mariner and honorary life commodore of the Royal Natal Yacht Club, Willy Vandeverre, believes an upgraded and transformed yacht mole precinct for Durban could soon be a reality.

An artist's impression of the proposed new waterfront.

"We're not talking about waiting 100 years or a never-neverdate," he says. "The time is now, and the interest and the opportunity are here. The city has given us a tacit go-ahead to make our plans and development strategy public.

"They want to know, as much as we do, what people think. For all the watersport entities operating from the yacht basin, this is very encouraging."

Central to the vision is a merger of the two century-old yacht clubs, the Royal Natal Yacht Club (RNYC) and the Point Yacht Club (PYC), which occupy two separate areas of the mole in front of the Victoria Embankment.

Aerial view of Durban with the recreational areas of the yacht mole and beachfront.

Vandeverre said the main advantage of the master plan was that the city already had the right of development (ROD) for the basin from the provincial authorities.

The ROD, he says, outlines the development principles and objectives. "These have been approved and entrenched in law."

In the new ROD dispensation, the Esplanade has been earmarked for commercial development while the yacht mole is deemed suitable for watersport.

"This will mean a major move for both yacht clubs," said Vandeverre. "While both are in agreement, it will involve establishing new premises for them, either separately or as a fully merged single club."

However, a number of sensitive issues would have to be addressed.

"Historically and practically, all the watersport bodies operating from the yacht basin have paid for every building, improvements, moorings, walk-ons, service areas and support structures out of their own pockets. So Durban Marina and Yacht Basin belongs to them."

But he believes the issue is bigger than ownership.

"It's a pressing problem all over the world, the decline of historically significant marinas and watersport clubs. The only ones that succeed are those that develop a strong sense of place and event.

"In short, they embrace the community.

"That's about where we are in Durban," says Vandeverre.

"The master plan calls for a collective commitment to make the Durban Marina and Yacht Basin a place where all the people of ethekwini can interact with the Bay of Natal.

"This is not only a superb opportunity for local and overseas tourism, but also a massive opportunity for job creation."

He said Durban's boat show was an example of a successful yacht basin destination event.

"This event, held over three days, was an incredible success, attracting a few thousand visitors. If we could have regular round-theyear events, we would have a successful marina. Hopefully, future generations will thank us for doing the right thing."

Denny Moffatt, who chairs the Yacht Basin Precinct Association, the body that represents all the role players in the area, said the key issue for the future was a "sound business solution". This, he said, would require financial input from the city, especially if high standards such as those in Cape Town were to be met.

"Many boat owners, club members and other interested parties such as employees remain in limbo as a result of the current state of affairs.

"Despite ongoing efforts to engage the city about plans for the yacht mole, there has been a decided lack of interest. So positive moves would be welcomed."

Municipal councillor and eThekwini Speaker Logie Naidoo said it was a good idea to gauge public opinion about proposals for a new marina.

"We need to know what the residents of this city think about it and whether the idea is attractive," said Naidoo.

Sunday Tribune

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