SAPOA Spotlights Water Risks To Land Development

SAPOA legal officer Eugenia Makgabo

SA Property Owners’ Association (SAPOA) is pointing to a growing risk to land development: the complex issuing of Water Use Licences (WULAs) and river reserve determinations.

Since the majority of new land development proposals in SA require crossings of water courses, WULAs have become a key criterion in new land and property projects.

The primary concern is that the process to issue WULAs is highly cumbersome, lengthy and unclear.

“SAPOA notes that even where planning approval has been granted, and an EIA has been approved, construction activity cannot commence without a WULA,” explains SAPOA legal officer Eugenia Makgabo.

Furthermore, all WULA applications appear to now be handled through the national Department of Water Affairs with no delegation to the regional offices.

“The result is that the timing of approval is uncertain, although certainly very long, which is a significant cost and challenge for our property developer and property owner members.”

An allied concern deals with the question of river reserve determinations.

In eThekwini, municipal officials have advised SAPOA members that the municipality is unable to obtain approval for any wastewater treatment works – or for any expansion of existing works – while Water Affairs conducts river reserve determinations for all rivers between the Mvoti and the Umkomaas.

“While SAPOA acknowledges thorough planning on the part of Water Affairs, we are concerned at the length of time this task will take – and what the impact will be on several large new land developments located in the municipal area,” explains Makgabo.

“We are as yet not clear on what the process is, if it has started or even what the timeframe will be.”

Although the process of river reserve determination is intended to be based on environmental, social and economic incomes, SAPOA is concerned that a fair and equitable process be implemented to engage all stakeholders.

“One very real example of the impact is that a potential Special Economic Zone being discussed close to Durban International Airport would not be viable until the question of wastewater is resolved,” she adds.

SAPOA points to the fact that the issuing of Water Use Licences (WULAs) poses a real risk to development activity, and thus negatively impacting both the construction and property development sectors of the economy.

“SAPOA is taking the proactive step of contacting the Department of Water Affairs to raise our concerns and ensure the impact of these decisions is fully considered,” says SAPOA CEO Neil Gopal.
“We trust we will be able to find a constructive way to work together to find a solution.”