The Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism has established a new national park in the country as part of a long term strategy to expand protected areas in South Africa.
SA Good News The new Garden Route National Park (GRNP) will consist of about 52 500 hectares of newly proclaimed land as well as the 68 500 hectares of the exiting Wilderness and Tsitsikamma National Parks. The entire 121 00 hectare park will effectively straddle both the Eastern and Western Cape Provinces.
According to the Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk, the establishment of the Park is part of a long term strategy to expand the protected areas in South Africa under formal protection from 6% to 8% of the total area of the country.
“As our Parks are some of our most important conservation and tourism assets, we have been steadily increasing spending on Parks. We have invested R411 million in infrastructure development for the period 2006/07 to 2008/09,” the Minister said at an event in Knysna on Friday which coincided with the gazetting of the GRNP.
Speaking at the event, South African National Parks (SANParks) Chief Operating Officer Sydney Soundy said that the Garden Route is one of the critical focus areas in South Africa.
“The area plays host to the largest continuous complex of indigenous forest in the country, spanning approximately 60 500 hectares. Its aquatic systems, the Knysna estuary and the Wilderness lake areas, are rated number one and number six respectively in the country. The fynbos falls within the Cape Floristic region, which is a designated global diversity hotspot,” he said.
“The Garden Route is one of the most important conservation areas in South Africa and one of our crown jewels in terms of biodiversity and its attraction to both foreign and local tourists” Van Schalkwyk said.
According to the Minister, the formation of the GRNP will have a number of beneficial results. The park will allow for the sharing of resources and management experience and the integration of current management units in order for greater economies of scale to be achieved.
The park will also help further boost SANParks’ contribution to the economy of the region which currently stands at R95 million per annum. The organisation is the second biggest employer in the region.