Establishing a formal Nature Reserve in the south-eastern buffer of the Magaliesberg Biosphere will not change landowners rights in the slightest, says Jenny Stevens, former Reserve Manager of Dinokeng.
“My land is my private land. Government can’t tell me what to do with it,” she added. Jenny was speaking to landowners in the Rhenosterspruit Nature Conservancy region on 10 November. She was invited to discuss local landowners’ concerns about becoming part of a registered Nature Reserve, drawing on her own experience in Dinokeng.
Dinokeng is the first free-roaming Big Five residential game reserve in Gauteng.
The groundwork done on establishing a Nature Reserve in the south-eastern buffer of the Magaliesberg Biosphere has been a rocky journey. However, considerable progress has been made over the past four years. Called the Crocodile River Reserve, it includes the Rhenosterspruit Nature Conservancy, plus large areas to the west and east of the Conservancy.
Local landowners understandably want to know what the advantages and possible pitfalls are of signing up for a Nature Reserve. On 10 November the larger than expected turn-out necessitated a last-minute change to a larger conference room at Idlewinds Conference Centre.
“There are three things I want to make clear at the start,” Jenny kicked off. “A nature reserve is a difficult thing to achieve, there are no easy fixes. But, when it comes right, it is wonderful!”
Describing the decade-long effort to establish Dinokeng, she said: “Some landowners regarded it as a ploy by Government to get us to willingly sign our land over, and believed that once we signed our land over, it would come and hijack the whole project.
“What has happened in Dinokeng is that each landowner has retained ownership of his/her property. They have retained the right to do on that property as they like, as long as they obey the nature conservation rules and the rules of the land in which we live. Those rules are binding on us as they are on anyone else. And it is important that we know those rules and what the limits are.
“I highly recommend you strive for this lifestyle but there is no way that you will get this done as individuals. It will only work if you pool your efforts, your talents and financial resources - if you are a cohesive force. Each landowner is valuable and can offer something to the project.
“Enjoy what you have and why you bought here. You could have bought in a lot of places, but you chose to buy HERE because what the land offers you appeals to you. Keep that, and protect that.”
In the past en years land values peaked and dropped and climbed again, Jenny said. “Property values have substantially increased. Not only because of the Reserve but also because of the economic increase in land value. But being in the Dinokeng Game Reserve has definitely added a status to the properties.”
"A nature reserve turns you into a legal entity and that protects the land in perpetuity. Nature Reserve status gets registered on your title deed which means that you are literally protecting your land for your children and the people coming after you. And even if it has gone through ten owners, they can’t change the land use. So you are creating something that is going to be of value to the whole of Gauteng. For me to know that the effort that went into creating Dinokeng Game Reserve is something that someone can’t take away at the stroke of a pen or a change of legislation, makes me feel good.”
“It is a long road but not an impossible road. Government has done it once, so with you coming in now, riding on our coat-tails, at least there is a path that wasn’t there before. So we can take the lessons we have learnt in Dinokeng and apply them to your area.”
A transcript of Jenny’s talk and the questions that followed is available on www.CrocodileRiverReserve.co.za