The New Harbour in Hermanus is plagued by vandalism and theft and role-players say there is currently no clear way forward.
Tim Hedges, managing director of Abagold, says the harbour does not stimulate business or economic growth, owing to uncertainty regarding its redevelopment. “It looks old, and there are abandoned buildings and it’s poorly maintained,” he said, adding that there are areas, such as the Lusitania branded building, that are not being used optimally.
Hedges says vandalism is rife at the abandoned buildings.
“Abagold ensures minimal crime through expensive self-funded security, as security at the main gate at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry is non existent,” he said.
Abraham Nasson, manager of Hermanus Whale Watchers, agrees and says customers always refer to the New Harbour as an eyesore. “It attracts vagrants that pillage the surrounding area,” he said. “They look for things to dismantle and sell.”
Nasson says a harbour committee meets every month to discuss concerns. “The usual concerns are that of vandalism and the uncontrolled activities here in the harbour, like people who fish for squid. These activities usually happen at night, toilets are vandalised and people board the boats. We’ve had thefts on our vessels where important equipment is usually stolen.”
He says the harbour committee has to hire additional security during the season. “We also pitch funds in together to help clean up the rubble from the abandoned buildings.”
Rowan Yearsley, chief executive officer of Aqunion abalone farm, is concerned about the future plans for the New Harbour and its impact on abalone farms. He says the majority of abalone processors are situated at the New Harbour. “Directly these processors employ over 150 people, but they are also essential to the abalone farming industry that employs over 1 500 people and creates substantial economic activity in the Overberg.”
He says the Department of Public Works has communicated to existing lease-holders that the length of time given for leases will be dramatically reduced. “For example, Aqunion’s current lease is for a period of 9 years and 11 months, but our understanding is that new leases will only be for a period of 1 to 3 years. This would be a significant risk to our business and we would probably move to a site at which we could apply long-term thinking.
“A longer security of tenure is needed in the New Harbour so that existing economic activity and jobs, which are in healthy conditions, are not compromised as part of a plan to create further economic activity and jobs, which may or may not materialize.”
Hedges believes that to grow the New Harbour into a tourism hub a clear vision along with public/private partnerships is needed. “There are no clear communications from the Department of Public Works. Attempts have been made, but very poorly drafted with innuendo and no clear guidelines or plans.
“The development potential of the New Harbour is significant if there is a joint approach to develop aquaculture, tourism, gourmet eating and efficient use of the harbour.”
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