Snow go, reserve owners told, after they bulldoze a car park on mountain

24 July 2021 - 16:14 By alex patrick
Winter in the Matroosberg Private Nature Reserve.
Winter in the Matroosberg Private Nature Reserve.
Image: Esa Alexander

Bulldozing a mountainside to build a car park for snow sightseers has destroyed highly sensitive altimontane fynbos, the Western Cape government said on Friday.

Now the owners of Matroosberg Private Nature Reserve in Ceres have been ordered to cease activities on the reserve and the neighbouring Valschgat Kloof, and to stop snow tourists driving up the mountain.

The Western Cape environmental affairs and development planning department said additional damage was caused by the use of informal roads in an area with a highly sensitive botanical ecosystem and threatened plant species.    

Site inspections were conducted by the department's environmental management inspectors and CapeNature, said a statement on Friday. 

“Our inspectors [Green Scorpions] have confirmed that significant pollution and/or degradation of this highly sensitive environment has taken place,” said spokesperson Rudolf van Jaarsveldt.

“Therefore the directive in terms of section 28(4) of the National Environmental Management Act was issued to the owners to prevent and/or minimise the pollution and/or degradation from continuing.”

The act says anyone who causes significant pollution or degradation of the environment must take reasonable measures to rectify the damage.

The department has now instructed the owners to:

  • Immediately cease the activities that have damaged the environment.
  • Cease all vehicular driving activities not related to protea harvesting on the road.
  • Submit a rehabilitation plan for the 4x4 roads and parking area within 30 days.

According to the department, failure to comply with the directive could result in a fine of up to R10m or imprisonment for up to 10 years, or both.

Two years ago, a bulldozer also cleared a way through the reserve to build a concrete cellphone base station on top of the Matroosberg without permission. The reserve was ordered by the department to remove the station and rehabilitate the area.