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OUR WATERWAY SAGA... - June 2010

The portfolio report...

I would like to commence by correcting an unfortunate and inaccurate statement that was made in the April edition of the 'Marina News' namely that weed cutting operations were conducted by the council with particular emphasis to the requirements of the canoe club for their various activities and functions on the Vlei, and on the waterways. This is not the case. It should be noted that a recent international canoeing event which was scheduled to take place on the Vlei and waterways was, in fact cancelled, and took place at another venue, due to the appalling condition of the local waterways in respect of weed growth. Hardly an example of 'preferential treatment'.

Unfortunately however, it is the case that the wishes, needs, and requirements of all users of, and residents on, the waterways in respect of weed clearance, generally appear to be ignored by the council.

The 'Kingfisher' weed harvester machines are in a near permanent state of unservicability. This is partially due to lack of spare parts, but mainly due to the maintenance contractor not receiving council authorisation to carry out the required routine maintenance of the machines as and when required.

There have been meetings ad nauseum between members of the Marina Da Gama Association Executive Committee, and members of the council, at which helpful proposals, such as setting up a planned maintenance schedule for the machines, at no charge were proposed. These proposals were welcomed by council, but to date no positive action has ensued.

There is a proposal extant that the operation of the kingfishers be taken over by the environmentalists, this would be a welcome development, but their funding and control comes from the same sources as at present, i.e. the council.

I conclusion, referring back to the reference to 'preferential treatment' it is perhaps worth mentioning that our own councilor, Mr. D. Qually, is himself a Marina resident. "On the water" and has to endure the same appalling conditions as the rest of us.
John Ridley

Feedback from our Councillor...

I must start this column out by apologising, on behalf of the City, for the problems experienced with weed growth in our canals or more accurately, I should say, by the lack of harvesting thereof. As a fellow Marina resident, I also became fed up. The main problem has been the breaking down of the weed harvester and the location of the second one at another vlei. The warmer than usual weather coincided with the down time, and when the water level was lowered, the canals literally became overgrown overnight. What's to be done?

About two years ago, the Parks department awarded a tender to a company to manufacture and operate a third machine to harvest the weeds. A number of problems arose with the machine, which did perform according to spec. The owners of the business fell out with each other and resorted to the courts. Council ended up without the equipment, but fortunately, not out of pocket. So, it has been back to the two machine schedule.

Further complicating matters are the competing needs of the Marina residents, Zandvlei recreational users and the ecology of the vlei. This particularly revolves around the water level. Too low a level prevents usage by the canoeists and sailors, as well as presenting problems to weed harvesting. To high and gardens and homes are flooded (remember last year). Ecologically, the salinity levels need to be maintained which involves opening the vlei mouth at spring tide.

With the conjunction of all these issues, we have had several meetings with senior Parks officials, Nature Conservation, Canoe and Yacht clubs and Marina da Gama exco members. Technical expertise is being used to develop an effective preventative maintenance and spares holding program (our Exco members have considerable experience having done this with planes and ships), as well as possible enhancements to the machines to increase usability. A long term schedule of mouth opening dates is being provided so that the recreational users can plan their events around them. Areas that can be accessed at various water levels are being mapped, so that operational time can be maximised.

We're not out the woods yet (should that be weeds?), but these measures should help minimise the recurrence of our recent problems, and hopefully I will not have to write a similar column again.
Cllr Demetri Qually
DA Councillor - Ward 64
Office 021 784 2001
Fax 0865 760 582
Cell 083 629 1326

More... from a marina resident and canoeist.

Ref your Editor's. letter in the latest Marina newsletter - I have an answer for you.

For as long as I have lived in the Marina (moved here on 1st December, 1984!), I have been one of the Marina residents who has continually been chasing the C.T.C.C. to sort of the weed problem in our waterways. That I am a canoeist (and a very keen one at that), I believe, has always been to the benefit of Marina dwellers, as, I am on the Marina canals training, at least 4 to 6 times per week and so I am in a very good position to monitor whether there is too much (or too little) weed in our waterways and in Zandvlei.

I have also, over the past 25 plus years been on the Marina Exco. in one form or another, but mainly as the Waterways rep. This portfolio I was forced to step down from last year, as working as I now do in Stellenbosch, it is difficult to make the monthly meetings of Exco. and hence, by virtue of the constitution of the Marina, I had to step down. I do however retain a position on the Waterways sub-committee which is chaired up by John Ridley and Dominic Young.

Those are the background facts.

Ref. the questions you pose in your letter:-

If the route that canoeists take through the Marina waterways are kept clear of weed, then almost all of the Marina residents benefit - only those in 'blind' waterways don't, because canoeists in training and racing, seldom go into them - for obvious reasons.

I am also the Media Liaison person for the Western Cape Canoe Union - sending articles, results and feature items to the various media outlets in Cape Town - mainstream and community newspapers, radio stations and TV channels.

Having to undergo for years (25 plus!) the inefficiency, incompetence and plain, couldn't-give-a-damn attitude exhibited by the C.T.C.C. with respect to keeping the weed in Zandvlei and the Marina canals under control (I mean this as we have to have it, but there can certainly a balance between the needs of flora, fauna, residents, canoeists, dinghy sailors, fishermen/women and other recreational users), I decided before the first canoeing event of the season to finally threaten the C.T.C.C. with exposure through the press (given my contacts) of their bungling incompetence in creating and reaching this balance.

(By the way, I have bulging files of correspondence from myself to the C.T.C.C. about this ongoing problem of weed that dates back to 1986, if you'd care to go through them sometime!).

Whether it was this threat or not that caused some action, I don't know, but on the urging of myself, myriad members of the Peninsula Canoe Club wrote to/phoned/emailed/SMS'ed the C.T.C.C. via the local ward counsellor, Demetri Qually (who is also a resident living on the water of Marina da Gama) demanding action and so slowly the gears ground into motion and some cutting was done (just of the route) before the event on 6th April and currently, more is being done because the biggest (in canoe numbers) event of the local canoeing season is due to be held on these waters on Saturday 1st May.

Also due to be held on these waters on 8th and 9th June are the W.C.C.U. canoe marathon championships - however, the Exco. of the W.C.C.U., mindful of the fact the C.T.C.C. is so incompetent, has unfortunately moved the venue elsewhere - to guaranteed, clear water. Just think of what this move has done to the local canoe club, which relies on events held here to help with finances. In addition, Canoe South Africa was keen to re-look at Zandvlei and Marina da Gama for next years S.A. canoe marathon championships - after all, the World Canoe Marathon Championships were held on these waters in 1998 - however. again, and because of the lack of guarantee from the C.T.C.C. about weed control, this is in the balance and the main reason for it was to pitch again to the International Canoe Federation for privilege of hosting the World Championships again - here, on Zandvlei and the Marina! Sadly, given the track record of the C.T.C.C. here, this is now probably not going to be happen and just think of the loss of income, exposure etc. etc. etc. such an event would bring to the area?

So, I hope that the above helps clear your mind regarding the sudden flurry of activity where weed cutting is concerned - whilst it had everything to do with canoeing, it also had everything to do with the Marina - after all, I am a Marina resident first and foremost, only having started my canoeing career once I had been living here for a about 6 months (in May 1985).

I would be happy if you published this reply in the next newsletter, if only to put into perspective the synergy that needs to exist between Marina residents and recreational water users and that in their coming together, to get the C.T.C.C. to use our rates and taxes in the manner in which they are supposed to be spent - on the area in which we live.
Rob Maclean
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