Off-road facilities still off limits

Off-road 4x4 driving excursions are still not allowed at Witzands Aquifer Nature Reserve despite lockdown level regulations making provision for it. Picture: Supplied

The City has been accused of putting tourism jobs on the line by not reopening one of its nature reserves to 4×4 enthusiasts despite revised lockdown regulations allowing for it.

The Witzands Aquifer Nature Reserve, also known as the Atlantis Dunes, has for years been a destination for recreational off-road driving, but it closed at the start of lockdown.

When lockdown eased to level 3 at the start of the month, the new regulations still stopped tourist destinations opening, but they made an exception for “private self-drive excursion activities”.

David Ayres, of Table View, has visited Atlantis Dunes several times over the years for off-road excursions and believes the City is making a mistake by keeping it closed to motorised access.

Off-road driving at the reserve supported many local businesses and jobs, he said.

“These businesses and jobs are under severe strain and threat,” he said. “Self-drive 4×4 driving at the reserve can be safely executed from the isolation of your vehicle. It is also clear that this tourist activity complies to the letter of the law and its desired intention.”

Mr Ayres, who holds the planning and biodiversity portfolio for the Greater Table View Action Forum, would like the City to extend all annual permits to make up for the time permit holders lost during lockdown.

Bruce Jenkinson said his quad-bike-rental business supported five families but had not operated since two weeks before lockdown started.

“We still have overheads, and, apart from the fact that we have no income since prior to lockdown, we had to refund all our client bookings for the lockdown period as well.”

Lockdown had left the business in a serious cash flow crisis, he said.

“Our City officials don’t care because they still receive their salaries and bonuses despite the fact that the facilities they manage are closed. No normal business will survive without clients.”

Mayco member for spatial planning and environment Marian Nieuwoudt said mayor Dan Plato had written to Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, asking for national regulations to be amended to allow for the reopening of City beaches, parks, and reserves.

“We are still awaiting the national government’s response,” she said.

“President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the rules for level 3 of the lockdown will be eased.

“The new regulations, however, must still be gazetted by the national government.

“We are awaiting the regulations to be gazetted by the applicable national ministers, and until such time, the current regulations stand.”