Cape Town - The Garden Route is on the mend, following devastating fires at the beginning of June which destroyed large parts of Knysna - with an official and coordinated Garden Route Rebuild Committee set to spur things on.
The announcement of the committee comes after the opening of the 2017 Knysna Oyster Festival last weekend with Mayor Bouw-Spies and MP James Vos reiterating how heavily dependent the area is on tourism, and that residents would be dealt an additional blow if their tourism economy were to decline.
SEE: UPDATE: Knysna Oyster Festival opens with spirit of hope despite more fires
Now the Garden Route Rebuild Committee will facilitate and expedite the aid that has come from "many people and organisations" looking to help the area get back on its feet, says Alan Winde, Minister of Economic Opportunities for the Western Cape.
To date a total of R2,5 million in donations have been received - Eden District has received R995 000, Knysna R1.3 million (with another R2m expected in the next three days), and Bitou R272 000.
The first point of call is to develop a long-term renewal plan, consider project proposals and ensure that they are adequately funded, according to Winde.
"This money will only be spent as the work groups identify and receive Committee approval for projects", says Winde.
Urgent humanitarian and safety work to be prioritised
"Much of this work is urgent. At the same time, a long-term renewal strategy will be developed that will result in legacy projects aimed at changing the nature of our economy and improving the sustainability of our residences and our environment," says Winde.
A preliminary assessment of the damage to public infrastructure has already been done by a working group chaired by the Eden Municipality, which, once verified by national government, will form the basis for disaster management funding applications.
The environmental management work is specifically looking at burn scar to identify slopes at high risk of erosion and trees in danger of falling next to roads - which will determine the urgent interventions required.
More Prosperous and resilient Garden Route
Winde says the bulk of the donations has been given to public benefit organisations and Committee now need these organisations to indicate what they have received and the purposes for which it was intended.
"We would like to include these organisations in the Committee’s overall planning and implementation processes, so that the donations can be aligned to where the needs are. Organisations are asked to contact Cabral Wicht at firstname.lastname@example.org."
"As we build a more prosperous and resilient Garden Route, it is important for all of our initiatives to be coordinated so that maximum impact can be achieved.
To address this, I met with the mayors of Eden District and Knysna and Bitou Municipalities yesterday and we jointly agreed to the establishment of the Garden Route Rebuild Committee, says Winde.
"The Committee will include the Province, Eden, Knysna, and Bitou Municipalities, representatives of the major private donors, and non-governmental organisations. It will meet on a weekly basis and provide feedback to the community on progress with projects," says Winde.
Work groups have been established that it will design and implement projects related to:
Humanitarian assistance, including further trauma counselling and assistance in accessing government grants and services;
Reconstruction, including the development of a framework that will ensure all new buildings are more resilient to disasters, and the development of a system to fast-track building approvals. This work group will also develop temporary housing solutions;
Environmental management, which will address slope stabilisation and alien eradication;
Business support, for businesses in distress and to support the establishment of new businesses that can build on the opportunities that have arisen from the disaster; and
Skills development, including the provision of construction skills for local people
The Garden Route Rebuild Committee is convening again next week and will report on further progress after the meeting.
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