After several glorious odour-free months, February 2018 saw us return to business-as-usual with Oceana and the familiar plumes of noxious emissions, along with their nauseating stench, filled the harbour once again. Here are some important updates you need to be aware of.
1. City of Cape Town grants Oceana the Atmospheric Emissions Licence (AEL) Renewal and Variation
On 25 January 2018 it was announced that the renewal and variation to Oceana’s AEL was granted by the City of Cape Town. The announcement came in an official letter from Pieter Badenhorst Professional Services (PBPS), the Environmental Assessment Practitioner (EAP) contracted to run the public participation process, who also compiled a comments and response report regarding the AEL (please see previous FAHB updates for information about this process). Oceana published an announcement only on 8 February 2018, which included a letter from the City explaining their decision. It is important to note that despite having proactively engaged with the City on this issue for more than four years, they still refuse to acknowledge Fresh Air for Hout Bay (FAHB) as a stakeholder and thus far we have not received any communication directly from them.
FAHB is submitting an appeal to this decision, in accordance with Section 62 of the Municipal Systems Act (Act No. 32 of 2000). Our appeal is focused around two main issues:
- PBPS did not display a reasonable degree of competency when conducting the public participation process, as highlighted by the following:
- The PBPS website (http://www.pbpscon.co.za/) is completely defunct and does not contain any information about the AEL or other projects. No information relating to the experience, organisation, or reputation of PBPS is available. PBPS has been inconsistent in their communication and has not kept stakeholders informed, even when requested to do so.
- The comments and response report produced by PBPS contains blatantly inaccurate information and in general the responses provided do not relate to the comments being made. No responses were provided for the significant well-being concerns raised by residents. The only source of information used by PBPS was Oceana and the report reflects extreme bias in this regard.
- There is no analysis of the comments provided, there has been no follow up with interested stakeholders who registered their concerns, and PBPS has not done their due diligence to ensure a credible public participation process.
- The reasons for granting the licence provided by the City do not include any reference to the concerns raised by residents and there is no evidence of consideration of the negative impacts, extensively and continuously detailed by affected residents.
- Despite submitting comment on behalf of its 627 members, FAHB was only considered as a single stakeholder.
- There is no reference or consideration of the Odour Pollution Impact Surveys that FAHB submitted highlighting well-being impacts and concerns.
- There is no acknowledgement of the long history of debate and contention this issue has been in the community and the City has selectively included information to suit its decision.
- There is no mention or reference to the ineffective complaints process or the concerns that FAHB has raised about this repeatedly.
- The City does not even acknowledge the existence of the odour and instead considers it as ‘potentially’ generated with ‘alleged’ impacts.
A full explanation of this, including pictures of the defunct PBPS website and the blatantly inaccurate information in the PBPS report, will be submitted to the City on 20 February 2018, within the 21-day timeframe for appeal submissions. FAHB will provide further updates about this appeal once communication has been received from the City.
2. What do we do now?
It’s difficult to know exactly how to deal with this situation but one thing is certain: we need to keep the pressure on. We need to demonstrate that despite the licence being granted, despite the lack of transparency on the part of government, despite the blatant political manoeuvres to ignore this issue and quieten our concerns, this situation is unacceptable and better opportunities exist for Hout Bay.
It is also important to understand the core issue: the desperate need for socio-economic stability within the disadvantaged groups of Hout Bay. We must recognise that the factory cannot shutdown overnight – neither Oceana, government nor the local community can allow it because of the significant and real impact it would have on the broader community. Instead, government needs to demonstrate that they have a plan in place to resolve this situation: to address the concerns of residents regarding the odour and to meet the socio-economic needs of local groups.
Thus far, local government has been completely silent. They have systematically ignored the issue by sweeping it under the carpet time and time again and this needs to stop. We need to hold our local government, and their representatives, to account. For years there has been rumour about a harbour development plan but any actual evidence of this has never materialised. Local government is supposedly committed to finding the most sustainable way for communities to meet their economic, social and material needs, yet there is no real evidence of this in Hout Bay.
Everyone, at an individual level, needs to start communicating with Hout Bay Councillor Roberto Quintas, Alderman JP Smith, Councillor Suzette Little and Councillor Brett Herron. Whether by email, telephone, social media or personal interactions, we need to hold them accountable for the development of our community: what are they doing to resolve this situation and what plan do they have to ensure the long-term, sustainable development of Hout Bay?
Contact them today and keep contacting them until we get a response.
(For all the email addresses, right click over this hyperlink, select ‘copy email address’ and paste into your email message.)
If you have any questions regarding this update or information or ideas you would like to share, please feel free to get in touch.