Zwartkops Conservancy History
History by Arthur Rump
(Who has attempted to make this as accurate as possible but gives no guarantee, express or implied as to the accuracy of these notes)
The Conservancy was formed on the 29th of July 1968 by a group of stalwart citizens who were concerned by the authorities’ total lack of interest in the Swartkops River and environs.
The founder members of the Conservancy were: Roux van der Merwe (Chairman), Eric Vos (Vice-chairman), Brian Flynn, Arthur (Chatty) Knight, Herbert McWilIiarns, Alec Paterson, John St Clair and W M Wild.
It is also interesting to note that there were four sub-committees namely Development and Long Term Planning (Chairman E F Vos), Facilities and Amenities (Chairman J R St Clair), Nature Conservation (Chairman A PKnight) and Publicity & Public Relations (Chairman J DNeaves), an attempt was made to form a River Users Committee. Much of the work of the Conservancy was done by the sub-committees and the Executive
Committee met only 4 times during its first year. The main reason for adopting the subcommittee structure being to “spread the interests of its members”.
The Conservancy also appointed Consultant Members as follows:
Dr. J Grindley (PE Museum)
Clr. W M Hayward (PEM)
H L Huisman (SAR & H)
R S Knowles (Publicity Association)
L E Kohler (PE Divisional Council)
R Matlock (City Engineer)
E E Van Rooyen (Dept. of Nature Conservation)
Clr. J Graham Young (PEM)
These consultant members met on two occasions with the executive. It appears that the Conservancy had the ear of the authorities! It is also interesting to note that a motion was passed at the first AGM that there should be a family subscription fee of R3.00 per family per year.
The issue that was catalytic in the formation of the Conservancy was the Sewerage Works War. A classic case of winning the battle but losing the war! The Fish water Flats Sewerage Works was proposed by the municipality to deal with the effluent from an ever increasing city. The floodplains of the Swartkops were an attractive site not only because it was an advantage to locate it at the lowest point (to allow gravity feed) but also because it was on the right side of the city away from the wealthy suburbs. The Conservancy encouraged public opinion against sitting the works on the Swartkops floodplain so successfully that the municipality held a referendum on the issue and we won! Joy in our victory was short lived as this was promptly overturned by the provincial government on the grounds of cost?
This issue highlighted the need for the Conservancy which was then duly formed in 1968. The first really major issue that the Conservancy was faced with in its first year was the 1968 floods that occurred in September 1968. In fact the Conservancy Hon. Secretary (Roux van der Merwe I suspect although this is not specified in the records) became Secretary of the Flood Relief Fund!
Construction of jetties and parking bays along Amsterdamhoek to the extent that for many years a riparian owner wanting to construct a jetty or parking bay had to get his plans approved by the Conservancy first and then the SAR & H.
Removal of prickly pears from the Aloe Reserve. I can remember many weekends spent on work parties pulling them out with the assistance of Dave Sanderson’s Land Rover. The problem was finally only solved in recent years when the parks department poisoned them.
Developing imaginative plans for promoting the estuaries tourism potential ie marinas etc. These ideas would certainly not be acceptable now as the importance and functioning of wetlands is more appreciated.
Marking the navigable channels on the lower estuary below the Wylde Bridge. Roux and I spent several weekends attempting to mark the rocks off Swartkops with a pole and then a buoy.
The interminable problem of bait exploitation. I remember being part of several Conservancy assisted attempts by nature conservation in which we actually went out at night and arrested bait diggers. The donation of the first boat “Curlew”, an aluminium hulled vessel by BP and AIgoa Round Table. This enabled the trust to patrol the estuary.
The publication of various brochures and books including Eric Vos’s “Sand dunes” which highlighted the importance of sand dunes to the environment and a stable beach system, Karl Edwards “Animals of the Swartkops”, and Noel Urton’s “Plants of them Swartkops Valley Bushveld and the addendum thereto.
The campaign to prevent builders and developers in Bluewater Bay using sand from the sand dunes. This culminated in Joan Finns famous bull dozer sit-in for which she won a national award for civil action.
The Conservancy was very involved in at least 3 attempts to dredge the estuary none of which have had any lasting benefit. In one effort over at least a year some 75% of the mud bank in front of the ZYC was dredged out. It returned in less than a year! The use of fill from and subsequent destruction of the famous “casting field” near Bar None. The Conservancy was closely involved in ensuring that the contractors revegetated the area properly. This fill went into the construction of the Bramlin Markman Road embankments.
The Conservancy was very involved in the design of the most recent and arguably best bridge yet built on the river “the Bramlin Markman Bridge”. This bridge is wide enough to accommodate the biggest floods without causing any material increase in water depth at peak flood times.
The design and location of Motherwell which we fought against and also the terrible disaster of the Motherwell Storm water Canal which was originally designed to come straight down the escarpment and now has an elegant curve. Believe me this was a major battle. We wanted the Storm water to either discharge into the Coega or straight out to sea. We lost this one!
The Conservancy also opposed the Markman Storm water Canal, which, not being a hard bottomed canal but porous, has proved very successful.
At least 3 huge floods occurred in the early days of the Conservancy (1968, 1973 and 1981). The Conservancy was very involved in measures to reduce the impact of flooding particularly at Redhouse. The flood height measuring devices at the mouth and Redhouse were placed there largely at the Trusts insistence. John Lincey, a surveyor, measured the depth of water and profile of the river bed under the Settlers Bridge for many years to determine what, if any, effect the bridge would have on siltation. These records are still available.
The oyster farm at the river mouth came in for a lot of attention and various attempts were made to get the land owner (the SAR & H) to cancel the lease. All to no avail.
The plan (not yet realized) to build the extension of Trunk Route 63 i.e. to connect the Swartkops/Despatch Road with the coastal freeway over the wetlands adjacent to Modder Spruit came in for much criticism, At least 2 extensions to Fishwater Flats Sewerage Works have taken place. The Conservancy has been very involved in first opposing them and secondly ensuring that they are limited as far as possible.
Then of course there is that perpetual smut in the eye “Carbon Black”.
The History Continues…