CapeTalk listeners have been calling and emailing The John Maytham show the past few days complaining that the pine trees in the lower Tokai forest are being cut down, denuding the area of any trees and shade. These listeners are adamant that the agreed management framework of the table Mountain national park is being ignored.
Gavin Bell, Area Manager for SanParks, joins John Maytham on the line, and he confirmed that MTO Forestry have commenced felling.
MTO is a commercial plantation and they purchased those pines from the Department of Forestry, and they are harvesting those plantations in terms of the conditions or the lease.— Gavin Bell, Area Manager SanParks
SanParks are assigned the lease and so work together with MTO Forestry on the felling schedule plans.
They have a schedule for clearing, and the fires accelerated clearing. They started in the upper Tokai areas...they are ahead of schedule and are now moving into the rest of Tokai and Cecelia forest to complete their harvesting schedule.— Gavin Bell, Area Manager SanParks
John Maytham quoted from emails where listeners say that TMO Forestry, when asked, said they are felling according to the TMNP schedule.
But Bell says it is according to schedule contracts within the lease. he also reminded listeners of an interview he did in May on CapeTalk, where he said felling may start within 6 - 12 months. But because the company is ahead of schedule this has been brought forward by a few months.
He cites operational challenges at MTO Forestry as part of the reason for accelerated clearing.
He disagrees that TMNP is driving this as a deliberate attempt to move away from commitments to the community and says there was proper engagement.
Pines have always been coming down there for years, and years and years. For over one hundred years the pines have been sold....and it is public knowledge.— Gavin Bell, Area Manager SanParks
He insists that the TMNP management framework has been no different this year to any other year. But added, it is up for reveiw next year.
With regard to lack of shade in the areas, Bell says there are alternatives along the green belt, and numerous other shaded parks in the area.
In addition, SanParks says it intends to make the Arboretum safer and also plans to erect shade structures and viewing platforms.
Listen to the full conversation below:
Listeners call in to respond to Sanparks on Tokai tree felling: