MINUTES OF MJEJANE HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION ENVIRONMENTAL COMMITTEE MEETING
Held on 12 October 2011 at Mjejane River Lodge
Peter Thomas (Chairman)
Welcome by the Chairman
Peter noted that at a recent parent Home-owners Association meeting this committee was confirmed as a subcommittee, and given the powers to make and enforce rules of an environmental and aesthetic nature. Val has offered to do the minutes in future and will attempt to make them full enough that when the wider community read them, they add to their knowledge of how Mjejane is being run environmentally. At a previous meeting it was agreed that minutes of these meetings, once approved would be sent to all home-owners at Mjejane. At times certain issues discussed would be sensitive and in these circumstances the minutes would be ‘sanitized’ until resolution was obtained on the issue.
Brian suggested doing a tape recording at meetings to facilitate note-taking. We will do this if needed.
Peter suggested approving last month’s meetings minutes and adding any extras into this month’s report so that all the information was available in one document. This was agreed and the previous minutes were approved
Peter asked why the name of the committee was so long, and asked if the name needed the ‘Home-owners’ label; and he asked should its name need to include Environment and Aesthetics. Martin said that it was a subcommittee of the parent Home-owners and that another Environmental Committee existed with Martin, Jaco and Kruger representatives; and this met every week or so to deal with ongoing, immediate on-the-ground issues as they arose. It was agreed for the time being that the name would be ‘Home-owners Environmental Committee’ (HOEC).
Peter asked if we could have any relevant data from the other Mjejane Environmental Committee passed on to this meeting, e.g. the minutes; however as minutes are not kept this is not possible. It was agreed that Martin and Jaco would update this committee on all relevant information. Peter then queried how the policies and guidelines were passed on to relevant outsiders. He said that it was important that issues that emanated from both the environmental committees were disseminated so that other people can refer to them. It was agreed that there should be a living document that absorbed the EMP for Erf 1 and that this, as well as any new issues that needed to be tabled were added, and then the Building Rules would need to be amended. Discussion centred round the needs for the new info to go into the building rules for new-comers, but a method was required so that existing landowners could be updated too. The method to achieve this was left with Jaco and Martin to solve. It was agreed that any resolutions taken by either committee should also be added to the list that the Estate architect has for his sign off process.
Peter queried the time limit allowed before the necessary papers are signed off at the time of occupation. Discussion followed as to what could be done if this process was not completed in time. Jaco was the most directly affected in the work place, and he felt it could sometimes take a very long time. Peter suggested that the ‘legislation’ should be given teeth and that non-compliance should be dealt with assertively if need be by a ‘lock-out’ procedure.
Brian suggested that as a general information instrument, newsletters are an important way of communicating important issues, but not all people are e-literate and many need a hard copy. Discussion followed around examples such as the Web page for Winchester, where data like the plant list rules etc could be loaded and then people could down load and action/abide by the contents. Martin and Jaco are to get the Mjejane web site operative as soon as possible. Val is to send the plant lists to Brian.
Further discussion centred on the need to address the issue that Syndicate Directors and Lodge owners must be responsible for communicating relevant information to any partners and visitors to Mjejane.
A discussion took place on the more important rules, which covered the following ideas.
• Vehicles are not to leave the roads and there is to be no off-road driving. As a general rule visitors should not get out of their vehicles. As all vehicles are to be driven by accredited personnel it is the responsibility of the driver to ensure that comfort breaks and drinks stops meet all the fundamental norms of safety, litter, noise, low impact, and acceptable behaviour. Loo paper and other litter are to be taken away from the stop in a bag and disposed of by that lodge. Nothing is to be left behind.
• Speed limits were emphasised – 40 kmph on all roads being the maximum. Any bad or fast driving needs to be reported and Jaco will follow up.
• On the ‘public” road in Erf 1, there is to be no running at any time; no biking; and walking only in the day time. This rule is needed for the safety of all concerned. If possible Management will alert each unit if there is a dangerous animal in the erf.
• No animals of any kind are to be fed; and all visitors must be made aware that food left lying around leads to problems. This is particularly true of monkeys and baboons and it is imperative that this rule is implemented. There will be serious measures and fines if this is not obeyed. At both meetings it was highlighted that builders are a part of the problem, leaving food scraps on their site. Once the primates are aware that food is there they become impossible to eradicate. The roaming security guards can play a role in harassing the animals to upset any roosting habits and to drive them off the property. Jaco highlighted that if Mjejane was the territory of a troop it was not likely that the group would leave, as the nearby home ranges were already occupied by other troops.
• Fires are always a major hazard and absolute vigilance is needed by all visitors never to leave untended boma or braai fires, at any time; but particularly when going to bed. It was agreed that a suitable fire cover would be designed and a manufacturer found. A fire cover would become compulsory to cover fires if no one was present. Fires must be covered while visitors are eating if there is no one at the fire. Metal covers for the fire 0833 104722 Johan Prinsloo
• When there are problems on the roads like fallen trees, unhappy elephants etc., rangers and drivers must pass on this info to Jaco immediately. At times it is in the interests of the environment to move the obstacle – e.g. when the soils or slopes are sensitive; however at other times it is better to leave the tree to decay, while a new kink in the road creates added interest on future drives. This applies to category D roads only.
It was suggested that the primary rules be written in short on an A4 sheet, and this should be laminated and distributed to each lodge. A copy should be on each vehicle too. It is the responsibility of the driver, as well as the welcoming home manager/owner, to ensure that all visitors are aware of the stringency of the rules and the need to obey them.
These rules would be loaded on Web pages – e.g. Mjejane, the Lodge and Winchester. Syndicated lodges should load them on to their websites as well.
Brian highlighted that in the future there could be a need for a reception station to be outside the reserve where people booked in more formally than now. This could incorporate a procedure for them to sign that they abide by the rules. Perhaps at a later time, time-share units could have to leave their vehicles outside the reserve and there could be a shuttle to and from the gate to reduce the amount of traffic on the roads.
Jaco and Martin are to think about all the ideas and come with suggestions at the next meeting. This idea was an extension of a longer discussion at the previous meeting where it was highlighted that as the number of houses increased, there would be more vehicles on the roads and more visitors; and that consequently the rules that were in place now, would need to be reviewed to ensure that the Mjejane development remained at the high level, environmentally sound, Kruger standards development that it is now.
Attendance at meetings
Peter suggested that we invite Don English and Ralf Kalwa to these meetings to help with the dissemination of information and the building of relationships between the various players. Martin agreed it was a good idea and said Ralf was often available but Don English was very hard to pin down as his work schedule was erratic and driven by urgent issues on the ground. He would invite them to the next meeting.
Peter reported an unscheduled, very casual visit by Municipality personnel to stand 16. This raised questions around security at the gate and the problems of increasing traffic were discussed. It was agreed that everyone would consider the issues of how the gate is managed, how many staff are needed with what equipment, how they contact the lodge; how the lodge responds and that this would be an ongoing matter for scrutiny.
Environmental Management Plan
Peter thanked Martin for circularising the EMP and commented how important it was for everyone to have a copy.
Discussion followed about the building of the Kruger entry bridge and the number of vehicles that will be allowed over. Martin reported that the bridge is well under way, and that 1 January is the stated completion date, but this could be earlier – being weather and water dependent.
The final agreement with KNP has not yet been signed re the entry process. More discussion is needed.
Martin commented that the process was of interest to both parties. It is important to SANPArks that Mjejane vehicles, with their decals, are seen on the KNP roads, in order to show everyone that the Mjejane project is working. There is a different need from the home-owners perspective. Their investment is huge, and up front and they want their return. They purchased partly off the fact that the bridge was to be erected. In addition there is the feedback loop that they also employ many people from the community in other capacities, too.
Landscaping and plants
At both meetings Val raised issues around landscaping and plants. There are a number of processes that have already caused problems. The essential fact that should drive all decision-taking is that the entire property is within Kruger and as far as humanly possible NO species of plant should be allowed to be planted that are not already present on the estate.
The issues that arise are:
a) Kruger does not allow slips / seeds / roots of existing material to be taken off site for propagation and later planting. However Val feels it is impossible for most Home-owners to provide the space, the man-power, the water and the supervision, let alone having the skills themselves, to raise plant material on their site. This was tried at Erf 16 and between heat and warthogs very little survived the rigors of the building site.
b) Once we allow any plant nursery to provide material we open ourselves to a multitude of genetic problems. On erf 16 there was a delivery of 10 Rubber-hedge Euphorbia, Euphorbia tiraculli that were orange and of Madagascan origin. Most home-owners and many landscapers would NOT know the difference.
c) Jaco expressed concern about the wrong density of specific plants in any one area, as well as people being aware of correct habitat planting e.g. can owners plant water-side trees like Natal-mahogany on properties away from the river? The rights and needs of the home-owners to create a viable, pleasant recreational space were discussed. It was agreed that the rules on this cannot be strict, but it is in the interests of all, generally, to plant species in their correct habitats.
d) Without some kind of irrigation to support new plants (especially those on privacy-protecting berms etc) plants will struggle to survive the first winter or two. However, it was agreed that it was not the intention that Mjejane gardens should look like those at Leopard Creek with green lawns all year round.
Val asked that this committee work with Kruger to come up with rules and processes being put in place relating to:
i) Specific landscapers and nurseries being given accreditation and being given dispensation to propagate off site;
ii) These organisations were to be the ones used at Mjejane – but obviously having a process in pace for newcomers to join the lists;
iii) That the plant lists be formally approved by Kruger and these then be widely and firmly established as the ONLY acceptable species to be grown;
iv) The removal of any alien invasive, especially in water/swamp gardens;
v) The use of Couch Grass, Cynodon dactylon as the only approved ‘lawn’ grass; Kikuya must be eradicated.
vi) The use of irrigation – both its extent and amount of usage;
vii) The rights of one stand owner to remove plants that are about to be trashed on someone else’s building site; it was agreed that this can be done but only with the owner’s approval;
viii) The onerous task for Jaco and his team to do site inspections to ensure that only the correct plants were being used;
ix) The problem that if plants are not on the approved list they will have to be removed.
Jaco expressed concern about the rights of the individuals to employ whatever landscaper they wished. Val agreed to phone Don English and try to set up a meeting soon.
Brian suggested that a Mjejane job creation nursery could be established to collect and propagate plants. The viability of this was discussed without conclusions.
Brain discussed the problem created, as well as the opportunities offered, when from time to time erf services (sewerage, electricity etc) have to be extended and the messy business undertaken of lines to be extended. Home-owners need to be protected from damage to property along those lines, but in addition plants can be rescued. It is a matter of communication. Where those installations impinge on stands there should be a communication about those services happening, and the developers should rehabilitate where it has impacted on private property. It is a matter of damage control for relationships. He noted that the damage done to Winchesters stand was utterly terrible. Good communication can massively reduce the bad reactions.
Discussion followed around the Rehabilitation levy of R10 000 with the query of “where do these levies go to”? Peter commented that this amount should increase at the same rate as the general levy increases. One levy should be for the contractor to pay and this is refundable if he leaves a clean site; but he must feel the pain if he breaks the rules. This levy is in relation to the home-owners site. The non-refundable levy should go to rehabilitation of the areas outside of the home-owners site. It was agreed that we need transparency.
Peter then went on to enlarge on specific rehabilitation as well as aesthetics in the development. He said he went through the MOA and that there are15 clauses that address some aspect of rehabilitation. No home-owner can come after the event and say they have no budget for rehabilitation. We, this committee, need to ensure that rehabilitation takes place for the benefit of everyone.
The various problem aesthetics were discussed. Brian felt that in time, with vegetation growth, the dark blue face brick walls would ‘disappear’. However, it was agreed that the colour and the extent of the gravel at the DJ lodges is not acceptable. If home-owners use gravel, which is not encouraged, then it needs to blend and be of limited size. Certain Lodges have not done the rehabilitation required. Martin and Jaco will speak to the Lodges concerned
There was a long discussion around the issue that for months there has been a problem with household litter around specific units. Jaco stated that at first he went to the manager on site and pointed out the series of litter sites. It appears that:
a) Vehicles are cleaned out in the driveway and the debris is simply swept beyond the periphery of the lodge boundary into the ‘veldt’.
b) In the same way, the dirt on verandas, and the ash from fires, are simply dropped over the edges.
c) Cans and bottles are tossed into the riverine area.
d) Worst of all there are no toilet facilities for workers and they simply squat in the grass of the nearby stand and leave toilet paper on the ground in the 5 to 10 metre area around their stand.
Jaco and Martin will continue speaking to these lodges and will keep this HOEC and the Home-owners Association committee informed.
It was agreed that ablutions for the staff inside the house will not work and it must be part of the building regulations that homes must have separate, outside staff facilities. This must be a check box for the Estate architect. Discussion followed around whether chemical toilets would work.
Insects and rodents
Mosquito problem and rodents were discussed and the name of a pest control expert who is environmentally aware was noted. Martin to provide name and contact details
Disposal of ash and rubbish
Martin and Jaco explained how to dispose of fire ash. Small amounts can be spread as ‘compost’, but no dirty things in it – cans, butts etc and it must be cold.
For recycling rubbish needs to be divided into 3:
b) Paper, plastic, bottles and tins
For large amounts of hot ash as well as compostable wet waste and dry waste contact 083 3104722 Johan Prinsloo for making wheelie bins and baboon proof cages. The Lodge will collect the ash with the refuse.
If waste and rubbish is not sorted in future it will not be collected
There was discussion around vehicle management and game drives and it was agreed that vehicles must be in their lodges in:
Summer by 10 pm: 22.00 hrs – Oct to Mar
Winter by 9 pm: 21.00 hrs – April to Sept
The above time will change in future
In addition at the Kruger Gate entrance:
If you are going to arrive after 6.00 pm: 18:00 hrs or leave before 6 am the rule is that you have to let the Mjejane Game Reserve office know this, during office hours before 4.00 pm on 013 792 7000.
These late arrivals and early departures may require a permit in the near future.
Noise pollution and littering
Noise pollution is a problem and will be firmly dealt with by the management. It was felt that 10 pm was a sensible shut off time for noise of all kinds. Noise should always be kept to a minimum, whatever the time of day.
Jaco and Martin reported that dealing with road littering is an on-going need. All the employees are aware and they collect as they drive along; will sometimes have to collect officially at a specific time particularly if it is over the Kruger fence.
Vegetation that impacts negatively on major river views on some stands was discussed. There is provision approved that allows some judicious pruning to improve otherwise severely restricted views. Each case will be considered on its own merits. The written permission of Martin or Jaco must be obtained before any pruning is done
Mapping the property was discussed. Jaco is waiting to get to Skukuza to collect the right GPS apparatus and then he can finish the job. Road names and highlight areas were discussed, and it was agreed that to have interesting names, that reflected any historical or ecological information/facts was useful. The wonderful grove of Trichilia emetica, Natal-mahogany at the far west end of the river road was discussed and the possibility was to call it Mahogany Cathedral. All home-owners are asked to submit any names for consideration.
Brian asked about areas to get out of vehicles and it was agreed that designated areas are not going to work. Wherever the ranger feels it is OK then they can get out. However it is up to the ranger to control any litter, and safety of their guests and it is entirely at own risk. It is the ranger’s responsibility to make certain it is a safe area.
Alien plants at Mjejane Lodge and elsewhere are being sorted out slowly but steadily. The Cactus, Opuntia species are being left because cochineal had been implanted on them. Brian summarised information and suggested that where there are isolated plants it is better to remove them once and be done. Fruit gets moved by animals and disseminates the plants. Over the last few months Working for Water have tackled Opuntia, Lanta, Paraffin weed, Queen of the night, Blue gums, Water lettuce, Red fern and Water Hyacinths along the Hector Spruit. Optuntia needs our own team with vehicles and control herbicides, as we cannot rely only on the outsiders (Working for Water).
Peter asked if the electric fence was on all the time and Jaco reported that this was meant to be; but with building etc there were times it was off. These need to be reported.
Discussion followed about the new road being made so that visitors do not drive past the workshop. Martin said a new road was being made.
Wood deliveries were discussed – the name of a person needs to be circulated who can ensure truck delivering of wood that is from an approved source and is sustainable; this would ensure that only one truck would need to drive in and out regularly, rather than a multitude of separate deliveries; ‘good’ wood would be from some local person doing bush clearing of something like Sickle bush.
Facilities on reserve adjacent to N4
There will be horse riding in this 600 hectares.
There was discussion about the ‘outdoor advertising’ that was allowed. Boards are approved on the N4 (for sales) and on each stand there can be notices for the contractor and architect during the building period but no For Sale notice boards. All boards must be taken down when the building sign-off is completed, or within 1 year of starting building, whichever is the shorter period.
Signoff of Plans
It was agreed that this committee was to see new building plans. The stands that are being developed at present are 38 / 39; 57; 27.
Chemicals and sprays for pest control were discussed.
All chemical and vegetation control chemicalsmust be submitted to Jaco for approval. This includes the materials in used in jacuzzis and the swimming pools.
In addition any professional called in to deal with chemical control or pest control of any kind whatsoever must be approved before they are applied.
At present there are two approved professionals – Nick and Mark Botha on 082 32 58117.
If owners want to use anyone else they should get the contractor approved by the Reserve Management.
Discussion reverted back to newsletters and how to make them interesting as well as instructive. The question remains as to ‘Who can make it happen’? People can take photos and put them on the web sites.
Val suggested she would try to put together a pamphlet on the dangerous snakes.
The list to be covered was discussed and it was agreed that it should include:
• Mozambique Spitting Cobra – which is most common but bites are rare – spitting into eyes was the problem especially for small children
• Black Mamba
• Rock Python
• Night adder
• Perhaps Berg Adder – in rocky areas
• Stiletto Snake
Other snakes that are not dangerous were:
• Eastern Striped /Yellow-bellied Sand Snake
• Brown House Snake
• Eastern Tiger Snake
In addition it was noted that:
• All spiders are to be treated with respect
• Scorpions – Parabuthes species – can be a real danger to a small child.
Val agreed to do this in March 2011-01-29
The next meeting will be held at 14.00 hours on Monday January 24th 2011