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Thursday Nov 29, 2012

uMhlanga tidal pool plans get a big 'No'

A proposed R27 million tidal pool for uMhlanga Rocks, holiday spot of the rich and famous, has been given a resounding "no" by many residents and visitors who marched along the promenade yesterday to show their disapproval.

An artist's impression of the proposed tidal pool.

The proposal has been slammed as wasteful expenditure by the DA, which argues that the council spent millions over the years to develop uMhlanga Rocks, one of the richest coastal suburbs in the country.

The tidal pool project, set in motion by the municipality several years ago, was delayed by the 2007 storms. The aim is to protect the uMhlanga Beach sand erosion and to provide a safe swimming area.

The beach at uMhlanga Rocks is not the most suitable for swimming in the sea because of the strong currents, big waves, rocks and a steep slope.

But many locals and the tourism sector are vehemently against the proposal of a tidal pool, citing parking shortages and the possible huge influx of visitors among their chief concerns.

According to the city, the cost of the tidal pool alone is R13m, but a total budget of R27m has been provided to cater for lifeguard facilities and an upgrade to the sewer pump station and other associated facilities.

A document says two alternative tidal pool and beach sites have been identified. These are the area between the lighthouse and the new pier, extending from the beach access off McCausland Crescent; and the Black Rock area close to the Umhlanga Sands Hotel, south of Bronze Beach.

It would include a new sea wall, designed to allow water to enter the pool during high tide and to retain it for swimming as the tide receded.

Oyster Box general manager Wayne Coetzer said the hotel was against the proposal because the area would lose its exclusivity.

"The owners of the hotel have made huge investments in the property and the area is a very upmarket node... A tidal pool, which is a largely downmarket concept, will make this area not so special," he said.

The Oyster Box regularly hosts international celebrities including Monaco's Princess Charlene and Prince Albert.

Coetzer said the R27m could be used for maintenance such as grass cutting and road maintenance in uMhlanga. He added that the tidal pool would make soil erosion worse and become a "cesspool".

"The tidal pools along the coastline have become dilapidated and generally do not last," he said.

Peter Rose, of uMhlanga Tourism, said the city needed to note the wishes of residents. "At a public meeting last month about 95 percent of the residents were opposed to it," he said.

Rose added that sand pumping was a better alternative if the city was serious about preserving the beach area. "If they say this is about getting back lost beach area, the reality is that this pool will only reclaim a small amount of land."

DA councillor Heinz De Boer said the money should be reallocated to housing and infrastructure development.

His party's objection had nothing to do with the possible increase in visitors to uMhlanga as it was already a prime tourist destination.

Municipal spokesman Thabo Mofokeng said the march was premature given that public consultation processes were still under way.

Randeer Kasserchun of the city's engineering unit has said that objections relating to water quality, safety and logistics were being dealt with.

"The pool will have operating hours and noise pollution shouldn't be a concern after hours. Pedestrian traffic is our concern and since the promenade is wide along the tidal pool area this is unlikely to be a problem.

"A traffic impact assessment will be undertaken to obtain further insight," he said.

Speaking about the longevity of tidal pools, KwaDukuza North Coast Ratepayers' Association secretary Frank du Toit said the structures were not cost-effective and the coastline should be kept as it is.

"The Salt Rock and Shaka's Rock tidal pools both have problems. At Salt Rock, a lot of maintenance has to be done, which is costly, and the Shaka's Rock pool is being allowed to be washed away because it has a negative impact on the environment," Du Toit said.

The Mercury

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