Initiated in 2019 and funded by Table Mountain Fund, the project aims to regularise the network of Private Nature Reserves (PNR) in the Western Cape to ensure compliance with the National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act of 2003 (NEM: PAA). The project is also a pilot project to determine the most effective process to verify and validate PNRs. The idea is that the process will then be implemented in a standardised manner in all other provinces.
Private Nature Reserves which were established under the Nature Conservation Ordinance 19 of 1974 prior to NEM: PAA of 2003 are regarded as nature reserves in terms of Section 12 and 23 (5) of the Act. The requirements for establishing nature reserves under the Ordinance are less stringent than the requirements set out in NEM: PAA. The Act requires that a nature reserve has a formally appointed management authority, an approved management plan and the required title deed endorsement as set out in NEM: PAA. As a result, it is required that the legal status of all Private Nature Reserves be verified and validated to confirm that these requirements are indeed being met. This is what is referred to as the regularisation of PNRs and this project aimed to support landowners of PNRs who were willing to comply with the Regulations for Protected Areas in South Africa, as set out under the Act.
The project established that there is a total of 155 PNRs in the Western Cape province. Sites were prioritised and all 111 PNRs that went through a biodiversity review process still have high biodiversity values and continue to contribute to the protected area network of the Western Cape. Due to intense landowner engagements and support, more than 50% of these landowners have agreed to regularise their nature reserves.
Despite several challenges with legal processes, the positive impact of this project on PNR landowner awareness and willingness has been significant. Ways to remain engaged with these landowners and provide platforms to build capacity and share knowledge have already been established through valuable non-government partners such as Conservation Outcomes and Conservation@Work, and CapeNature values the positive outcomes that partnerships of this nature provide.