For up-to-date news, activities and calendar of events please visit  

This biodiversity stewardship project aims to provide formal conservation protection for the area of the Rhenosterspruit Nature Conservancy, and beyond. 

* - * - * - * - * - * - *


Bird Gallery

A brief history


The Transvaal Provincial Administration (TPA) announced that Hills and Dales properties would be expropriated to make way for a low-cost housing scheme.

The Greenbelt Action Group was created to counter the threat to open space, and after lengthy negotiations and widespread publicity, the provincial proposal was withdrawn. 
An incidental consequence of the incident was the foundation of a stronger landowner community with common purpose.


The Kareebosrand Conservancy was established, covering mainly Hills and Dales and Roodekrans. Guided hikes were arranged over weekends to improve local awareness of the region. A full-time game scout was employed to patrol the area, remove snares and assist with the hikes.
In this year two mining houses attempted to acquire mineral rights from owners in the area with a view to prospecting and drilling equipment was brought to a site near Lanseria. The Kareebosrand Conservancy, together with other concerned volunteers, opposed the attempt and were eventually able to thwart it.


Kareebosrand Conservancy became involved in the Demarcation Board hearings to decide on the way forward for the rural areas north-west of Johannesburg. The final decision was that the region north of the N14/R28 would not be used for housing or industry but be kept open for agriculture, conservation and recreation.

At the same time the conservation efforts shifted to the west of the Crocodile River (RNR) was created with the aim of applying for protected status, fencing the whole area and bringing in game. A large portion was actually fenced, including Riverside Estates, Rhenosterspruit, parts of Vlakfontein, Roodekrans and Kalkheuvel and the Rhenosterspruit Nature Reserve.


A Lanseria-based businessman, Mr Brussouw, purchased seven properties in Hills and Dales and offered to purchase all other Hills and Dales properties for the purpose of developing a high density, low-cost housing estate of approximately 24 000 houses.
In response to this threat, landowners in Hills and Dales, Roodekrans, Doornrandje and Hennopsrivier united with the RNC, effectively doubling the size of the RNR to approximately 8,000 ha within two months. 
Before the low-cost housing project could proceed further, Brussouw was alleged to have been smuggling illegal immigrants into South Africa and he skipped the country.  The sale of the seven properties fell through. 
In the same year the extended RNR applied to the Gauteng Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Environment for formal proclamation as Rhenosterspruit Nature Reserve. DACE rejected the application, however, citing lack of black residents' involvement.


The RNR appointed a consultant to conduct interviews with non-landowners and obtain their views on the area being proclaimed a nature conservation area. 176 signatures in favour of a conservation area were obtained. At the same time a detailed survey of all properties was conducted with the following results:

Total number of properties in the proposed reserve: 344 (100%)
Total land area: 10 899 ha (100%)
Total number of non-landowning residents: Unknown
Number of property owners supporting the reserve: 307 (89%)
Land owned by supportive property owners: 9838ha (90%)
Non-landowning residents supporting reserve: 176 

This additional information was re-submitted to Gauteng DACE as a supplement to the Application for Proclamation, but was again rejected.


The RNR then decided to create smaller game reserve nodes. Two subsequently got off the ground - Roodekrans Game Reserve and the Oori Private Game Farm - within the larger RNC. Both were fenced and stocked with game.


The RNR was registered by Gauteng DACE as a conservancy.


The conservancy status of the RNR was updated by the new registering body, the Gauteng Conservancy Association (GCA). The Registration number is GCA 032.

The RNR is a founder member of the GCA


The Committee requested a special general meeting to vote on a name change for the RNR. This was proposed in order to more accurately reflect the actual status of Rhenosterspruit as a Conservancy, not a Nature Reserve. The Conservancy is now known as Rhenosterspruit Nature Conservancy.

The RNC won the coveted "Meerkat Award" for Conservation.


Summary of 2007 Activities:

  • The Conservancy provided extensive input for the Environmental Management Framework (EMF) commissioned by Tshwane local government.  The EMF determines the environmental, cultural, historical and geological sensitivities in Ward48.  RNC is the western half of Ward48.
  • Three tours through the RNC for officials from the Tshwane Municipality, National Department of Agriculture, GDACE, the Cradle, Gauteng Development Tribunal and the S A Heritage Resource Agency: to inform their understanding and thus their decision-making about this area.
  • Represented RNC at 12 environmental workshops and conferences.
  • Undertook a major campaign to clear hundreds of hectares in the area of Pom-pom weed. This included employing and training local labour.
  • Assisted Land Resources International and Working for Water to identify wetlands for rehabilitation.
  • Meetings with officials from various departments regarding issues such as division of land, grazing capacity, alien removal and erosion.
  • Distributed 12 newsletters (Nov 2006 to Oct 2007) to keep RNC residents informed of what is happening in and around this area
  • Assisted Roodekrans residents in the matter of a road closure by a developer.
  • Liaising with Blue IQ, the Gauteng development agency, re the proposed buffer around the Cradle which will include the territory of the RNC
  • Hosted public meetings to help shape the formulation of the Environmental Management Framework for this south western region of Gauteng, commissioned by Tshwane Municipality
  • Continued to monitor all development applications in and adjoining the RNC - 16 in the past three years, which included nearly 2 000 new houses, a golf course, hotels, conference centres, lodges and all the accompanying infrastructure. The RNC's role is to ensure all the legal processes required by provincial and national legislation are followed.
  • Facilitated a meeting with officials from Tshwane Municipality, Gauteng provincial departments and central government.
  • Continued to liaise, and attend meetings, with the Gauteng Conservancy Association and the National Association of Conservancies of SA.
  • Helped launch two new conservancies - Lammermoor, Greater Equestrian Kyalami Conservancy
  • Assisted in the establishment of the North-West Conservancy Association
  • Continued with assistance to Refilwe as part of community outreach.
  • Involvement in plans for a Magaliesberg Biosphere, including RNC, under the aegis of UNESCO.
  • Exploring the possibility of obtaining Protected Area status.


Summary of 2008 Activities:


  • Conservation calendar:  More than 15 walks, talks and courses involving trees, bats, leopards, snakes, birds, organic farming, recycling, grasses, history, scorpions, spiders and other fascinating goggas have taken place
  • Veld and land management:
  • Alien eradication -  hundreds of hectares treated for Pom-pom by Lynne Clarke and her teams.
  • Wetland rehabilitation and erosion: Assistance from Gauteng conservation authorities.
  • Working on Fire: Meetings have taken place, exploring the possibility of a team of 25 stationed on Northern Farm
  • Exploring Stewardship and Protected Areas agreements:  RNC has initiated meetings with Gauteng conservation authorities and conservancies to explore more protected status for conservancies.
  • Egoli Granite Grassland:  This vegetation type  in Doornrandje and Hills & Dales is defined as endangered. Large portions of these grasslands will be managed as a nature reserve.
  • Environmental Management Frameworks (EMFs). Three EMFs are happening in our area (Ward 48) -  commissioned by Tshwane, the Gauteng conservation authority (GDACE) and the Cradle of Humankind which is proposing most of the RNC as its buffer.


  • Official tour.  This is an annual event to make officials aware of the attributes of the RNC.  Twenty officials from Gauteng, Tshwane, Mogale, the Cradle and DWAF (Water Affairs) were taken on a day's tour of the RNC in May.
  • Setting up and/or attending meetings with Tshwane and provincial authorities to ensure the RNC stays informed about policies, guidelines and decisions impacting on the RNC.
  • Expanding the RNC membership.  Welcome to new members: the Henrys (DR), Alpha Conference Centre (KH), al Fiume/River Place, Werner Begere and Janet Webber (Hennops), Alan Kennedy and partners (DR), the Dawsons (Hennops) and the Chapmans (RSE).


  • VeldTalk is sent monthly to 350 RNC residents plus 200 officials and other conservancies.
  • Website:  Set up and maintained by Mercia Komen. (specifically for residents) and
  • Public meetings: The RNC has hosted meetings to disseminate information. (The Tshwane EMF feedback meeting: Saturday 2 August in Hills and Dales.)

Marketing and promotion

  • Conservation Calendar:  The events are highlighted in VeldTalk and on radio station's diaries.
  • AA Magaliesberg Map:  The RNC appears prominently on this map (80 000 copies, 2008).
  • Mail&Guardian Greening the Future:  The RNC was short-listed for a merit award.
  • Presentations:  Talk to Wits students by invitation; guest speaker at Gauteng conservancies.
  • Guests:  Hosted conservancy delegates from Western Cape, North-West and Kenya.

Development Monitoring

The RNC is registered as an Interested & Affected Party (IAP) for all development applications in and adjacent to the RNC. Since 2004, 20 applications.  For each, comments or objections are submitted and public meetings and Tribunal hearings are attended.


The purpose of the events organised by the RNC committee is two-fold:  conservation awareness and fund-raising.


  • Negotiations are underway to incorporate Diepsloot Nature Reserve (Northern Farm) into RNC.
  • The court case between Wraypex (developer of Blair Atholl) and members of the RNC is scheduled for 14- 24 April 2009.

Golf estate developer sues opposing neighbours for defamation

The following article appeared in Pretoria News about the case against residents of the Rhenosterspruit Nature Conservancy. 

THE multimillion-rand lawsuit by Wraypex against four residents who opposed the development of a luxury Blair Atholl township - a 330-house luxury estate, including a Gary Player-designed golf course - has started in the Pretoria High Court.

Mervyn Gaylard, Helen Duigan, Lise Essberger and Arthur Barnes are each being sued for between R45 million and R50m in damages for alleged defamation stemming from their fight against the development.


A Gem of a Place

The "Karee Chronicle" was the first publication to describe the Rhenosterspruit Nature Conservancy as "a gem of a place". And throughout the Conservancy the truth of that statement is affirmed.

Palaeontology and Geology

The RNC borders the Cradle of Humankind, and as one resident often remarks "And who told those hominids not to cross over the R512?"

The assumption is clear that the Conservancy is as valuable as the Cradle of Humankind. It has within its borders - and beyond to the east - confirmed digs where Robert Broom was busy at the time of the great discovery in the Cradle. Digs abandoned now, but very likely to contain interesting and valuable artefacts. The digs run on the same contour as the Sterkfontein caves, and may even interlink in a vast landscape below the surface.


The Conservancy lies across two ancient geological

  • the Transvaal System to the north which is over 2.3 billion years old.
  • the Archaean Basement Complex on the south which is over 3 billion years old.

Within the two broad geological formations there are three main rock types, the dolomites and Black Reef quartzites of the Transvaal Series, and the Archaean Complex.

The granite formed a vast inland sea in an extensive shallow basin. In this basin, over billions of years and correspondingly different conditions, various sedimentary layers were deposited.

We often notice the flash of white quartz in the Rhenosterspruit, in some places even extensive outcrops. An earlier layer of quartz, pebbles and sand is devoid of remains of organic life forms.

Other layers followed, including silica and carbonate deposits from algae that started growing in the saline water. It is in this layer that the dolomite rock was formed

In more recent times, the area has supported many silver mines, lime kilns, has copper deposits and boasts the site of first discovery of gold on the reef.

At greatest risk is the karst landscape of the dolomite. Inappropriate development or land use on the dolomite can have a devastating impact on underground systems and ground water. The mining activity in the West Rand is also causing Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) to threaten the adjoining Cradle of Humankind.

Heritage Sites

The Conservancy is home to many sites of heritage significance. South African Heritage Society points out that these sites are valuable for a combination of factors - cultural (such as Boer war sites, ancient kraals, etc), archaeological (iron age sites with artefacts from stone implements to pottery shards), paleontological (further to enhance the discoveries in the Cradle of Humankind) and living heritage (sangomas visit and perform rituals at sacred places, collect medicinal plants).

There are structures erected by Italian craftsmen held as prisoners of war, lime kilns with amazing stone work, sacred sites where chiefs pronounced judgments and held council, a honeycomb of caves with undisturbed sandy much to see and study in order to understand our history and heritage.

Scenic Beauty

The RNC has places of great scenic beauty. On the periphery of the fast-paced hub of South Africa's economy, a treasure of open space, sweeping vistas and uninterrupted views still exist.

A filmmaker's find, a birder's paradise, an endurance athlete's playground, a mountain biker's undiscovered trail.

The conservation and protection offered by the RNC, has to date saved the priceless views. In other countries - such as the United Kingdom - areas are declared to be of "great scenic beauty" and then have a formal protected status. In this manner, the government prevents its citizens from being denied the continuation of or access to what are national treasures. These areas remain open to the public - citizens and tourists - and there is funding available for preservation.

In the absence of similar forward-thinking initiatives by SA government, the RNC residents protect scenic beauty from being degraded or encroached on by inappropriate development and land use.

Often developers plan to carve up and populate areas within the RNC, relying on other residents to provide the views, space and vista (by not developing their own land). Such exploitation is actively discouraged.

Fauna and Flora

Landowners have by agreement fenced large areas and re-introduced game. The largest of these areas is the Oori Private Game Reserve.

Through protecting the wider area, the small game, insects, reptiles, birds etc have found a home in close proximity to the cities,

Within the RNC, there are more than 90 mammal species, 55 species of amphibians, tortoises, turtles and snakes and 298 species of birds - at last count!

And the reports of leopard in the RNC was recently confirmed - sadly by the death of a leopard struck while crossing the busy Lanseria Road.

Never believe that veld is just grass! The delicate and beautiful flowers that abound in the RNC are testament to the often hidden beauty of the untouched areas. There is a proliferation of aloe species, karee and acacia trees, endangered and threatened grasslands, and of course a myriad of wild flowers.

About 125 varieties of trees and shrubs flourish in the Conservancy (compare that with Great Britain, which can boast of 33 tree species!)

The RNC has waged war against aliens such as the Pom-Pom weed, to protect and preserve the diversity of plant life. Vital to the well-being of the biosphere, wonderful wild flowers are protected from over-grazing, arbitrary removal and picking, and wildfires.

The landscape may not have the blush of the Namaqualand after rain, but the discovery of a bloom amidst the grass is no less exciting.

The region was broadly classified as Bankenveld, including some areas of Sour Bushveld. The grassland soils vary, and correspond closely to the local geology.

Vegetation types within the Conservancy are Andesite Mountain Bushveld, Carletonville Dolomite Grassland and the endangered Egoli Granite Grassland.

Types of protection offered by Stewardship Programme

Conservation Area

The Conservation Area category is an informal, flexible category for landowners who want to conserve biodiversity on their land.  The category can apply to individual or multiple properties.  Any natural or semi-natural land can qualify for Conservation Area status, provided that the landowner is prepared to maintain the natural character of the land.

The agreement between GDARD and the landowner constitutes a simple pledge of care.  There are no legal restrictions binding on the landowner but development and management of the site must be appropriate for the Conservation Area status to be retained.

Landowners participating at this level are eligible for basic support (especially management advice) from GDARD.


Conservation Area is an informal, flexible category for landowners who want to conserve biodiversity on their land.

Inherent attributes/characteristics

Any natural or semi-natural area can qualify as a Conservation Area.  Conservation Areas can consist of single or multiple properties.

This category can include conservancies and other non-statutory conservation areas.

A Conservation area must:

Retain the essence of its natural character

Be clear of alien species (plant or animal) or at least have a programme in place to control alien species

Have a rehabilitation plan if necessary

Legal Status

The landowner signs an agreement with the conservation agency.  The Conservation Area will be registered with the province and will be issued with a certificate. When the property is sold, the new owner is under no obligation to continue the designation

Contractual Arrangements

The landowner signs a pledge


No defined period. The Conservation Area status is valid for as long as the landowner or community or conservation agency wishes the designation to be valid. Landowners may request in writing that the Conservation Area status of their properties be terminated at any stage and additionally the conservation agency has the right to terminate the status if required.  Landowners must provide sixty days notice of their intention to terminate Conservation Area status.

Focal purpose of the Category

To provide a category to participate in the Biodiversity Stewardship Programme for landowners and communities:

  1. Who have important biodiversity but who are reluctant to enter into a formalised agreement or to commit to a defined period
  2. To take collective action to conserve and manage their combined properties and to manage common issues


The area should be managed according to a set of management requirements and maintained according to the purpose for which it was declared.

There are no legal limitations placed on the landowner or community, but the area should retain its natural character.

The landowner or community would still need to comply with all relevant legislation.

Development Nodes

There are no legal restrictions placed on landowner or community, however effective sustainable management of the site is encouraged.

Inappropriate development is grounds for termination of conservation area status.

Landowners and communities would still need to comply with all relevant legislation

Potential benefits

Provincial recognition

Basic habitat management guidelines and best practice advice.

Significant habitat management assistance and other costly assistance is reserved for categories with legal status



Biodiversity Stewardship Agreement (Contracts)

This category covers two types of agreements: Biodiversity Agreements and Biodiversity Management Agreements. These agreements are identical except that the latter is recognised under the NEM:BA.

This category is intended to provide for a formalised partnership between a landowner and GDARD (and the MEC, in the case of Biodiversity Management Agreements) to meet certain agreed-upon conservation objectives on a site. The minimum duration of these agreements is five years, but the duration could be longer if the parties agree to this.

Biodiversity Management Agreements are only applicable where a Biodiversity Management Plan has been published for a biodiversity feature in terms of the NEM:BA whereas Biodiversity Agreements may be pursued for qualifying land where no such Biodiversity Management Plan in terms of NEM:BA exists.

Land under a Biodiversity (Management) Agreement must be managed in a way that supports the achievement of agreed objectives. The agreement is supported by a management plan that provides for required actions, responsible parties and timeframes. Development and activities that are not consistent with the objectives for the land under the agreement is not permitted.

Landowners participating at this level are supported by more advanced extension services from GUARD and possibly also by direct support for the ecological management of the area (e.g. through Extended Public Works Programmes such as the Working for Water Programme).

Landowners participating in Biodiversity Management Agreements are eligible for fiscal incentives in terms of the Income Tax Act (Act 34 of 1953).



Biodiversity (Management) Agreements are adaptable negotiated agreements for conserving biodiversity in the medium term.

Inherent attributes/characteristics

This category is suitable for conservation-worthy land which is in a relatively pristine condition, including small isolated fragments - the site must make an important (but not necessarily essential) contribution to the conservation of key vegetation types, species, ecological processes or ecosystem services.

Alien plant infestation does not disqualify a property from receiving this status, provided the densities are such that they can still be managed and the habitat restored.

Generally, a higher status should be considered for areas with particularly important or sensitive biodiversity

Legal Status

Biodiversity Agreement - a legal contract is entered into between the landowner and GDARD.

Biodiversity Management Agreement - a legal contract is entered into between the landowner, GDARD and the MEC to implement a Biodiversity Management Plan in terms of the NEM:BA.

Contractual Arrangements

A Biodiversity Agreement has legal status by virtue of a legal contract entered into between the landowner and GDARD.

A Biodiversity Management Agreements has legal status by virtue of a legal contract entered between the landowner and GDARD and is recognised in terms of Section 44 of the NEM:BA.

Security is provided for the land by virtue of a legal agreement and a negotiated management plan.

Should a situation arise where a landowner or GDARD fails to adhere to any of the terms in the contract or the Management Plan, then the offending party may be prosecuted for breach of contract and may take any necessary measures to remedy the breach and recover costs and damages from the offending party.


Minimum period of 5 - 10 years (ideally 10 years or more), but may be in perpetuity if requested by the landowner.

Focal purpose of the Category

To provide for a formalised partnership between a landowner and GDARD (and the MEC, in the case of Biodiversity Management Agreements) to meet certain agreed-upon conservation objectives on a site.

The agreement is supported by a management plan that provides for required actions, responsible parties and timeframes.

The purpose of each Biodiversity (Management) Agreement area depends on the agreed conservation objectives.


The landowner’s access and residence rights are unrestricted.

Permissible use and activities are agreed to by the landowner and conservation authority and are determined on a site-by-site basis.

The land must be managed in such a way that will conserve biodiversity and support natural processes, which generally excludes any activity that may adversely impact any indigenous fauna and flora or their habitats and the natural state and flow of any water resource.

The restrictions set out in the Nature Reserve category apply, but these may be amended or relaxed or negotiated to incorporate issues specific to the Biodiversity Agreement area and the needs of the landowner.

Development Nodes

The landowner may choose to exclude future development nodes from the area designated for the Biodiversity (Management) Agreement area.

Development restrictions

Development consistent with the achievement of the conservation objectives may be permitted within the Biodiversity (Management) Agreement area, with effective sustainable management of the site encouraged. Development rights must be sought from the appropriate authority.

Potential benefits

Conservation and management expenses in terms of the management plan may be deducted from the income generated from the land on which the Biodiversity Management Agreement is signed (with conditions).

GDARD will draw up a Management Plan for the property with the input and consent of the landowner to guide and schedule management actions.

Public works programmes (e.g. the Working for Water Programme) will be informed of the Biodiversity (Management) Agreement status of the site, which may be eligible for future support from these organisations.


Protected Environment

A Protected Environment is a flexible legal mechanism, recognised by the NEM:PA, for controlling land use on single or multiple properties. Protected Environment designation is particularly useful where large landscapes require some form of conservation management, but where it is unnecessary or unsuitable to restrict other forms of extractive land use.

In terms of multiple properties, Protected Environments enable GDARD and landowners to cooperate and take collective action to conserve biodiversity and to establish a legal status for this combined action without having to forgo other rights.


Protected Environments are flexible protected areas, recognised in terms of the NEM: Protected Areas Act (Act 57 of 2003). A Protected Environment is a legal mechanism for single or multiple landowners to control and direct land use on the properties concerned.

Inherent attributes/characteristics

The strengths of Protected Environments, as defined in Section 28 of the NEM: Protected Areas Act, are:

Their flexibility in restricting those land use activities that may threaten the landscape.

Their use to maintain or protect a sense of place, spiritual values or sense of solitude, by limiting visual (buildings, lights, etc) and auditory disturbances

They enable GDARD and private/communal landowners to co-operate and 'take collective action to conserve biodiversity and to establish a legal status for this combined action (Section 28(b)).

They enable landowners to conserve and enhance the products of particular or critical entities within the landscape without having to forgo other rights

They may be used for expansive areas of multiple determinants where there is uncertainty in terms of the sensitivities of the system, or where acute control measures are required. They thus serve as a platform on which conservation partnerships may be built.

They may be used to protect existing protected areas through buffering an existing nature reserve or world heritage site.

They may be used to safeguard components of habitat's or ecosystem's outputs which are vital for sustaining specialised habitats within the protected area.

Legal Status

Proclaimed as a Protected Environment in terms of Section 28 of NEM: Protected Areas Act.

Contractual Arrangements

  1. Agreement with the MEC, landowner/user and conservation agency - applicants for Protected Environment status enter into a contract (preferably notarial agreement) with the MEC and conservation agency that would augment and concretise the Protected Environment status for the stipulated duration.
  2. Management agreement is signed between the management authority (usually landowner/user) and conservation agency to regulate the management of the protected environment.
  3. Endorsing Title Deeds for the purposes of biodiversity stewardship would ideally be done to provide the sites more security by binding successors in title to the protected environment status of the site.


Protected Environments declared for a minimum period of 30 years make them eligible for fiscal incentives, as well ensuring the biodiversity is afforded sufficient security.

Focal purpose of the Category

The Protected Environment designation is useful to pursue where large landscapes require some form of conservation management, but where it is unnecessary or unsuitable to restrict other forms of extractive land use.

In terms of Section 28 of NEM:Protected Areas Act, the purpose of a Protected Environment in terms of biodiversity, stewardship is to:

a) Regulate the area as a buffer zone for the protection of a special nature reserve, national park, world heritage site or nature reserve,

b) Enable landowners to take collective action to conserve biodiversity on their land and to seek legal recognition for such initiative;

c) Protect the area if the area is sensitive to development due to its

- biological diversity;

- natural characteristics;

- scientific, cultural, historical, archaeological or geological value;

- scenic and landscape value; or

- provision of environmental goods and services;


d) Protect a specific ecosystem outside of a special nature reserve, national park, world heritage site or nature reserve;

e) Ensure that the use of natural resources in the area is sustainable


There is no limitation on activities other than those specifically listed in the gazetting notice of the establishment of the Protected Environment. An agreement needs to be negotiated between GDARD and the land owners.

The following are minimum restrictions in terms of the biodiversity stewardship programme:

- No transformation of natural vegetation;

- No introduction of alien species (plants, or animals);

- No mining (conditions as per NEM:PAA, section 48);

- No dumping of waste outside of appropriately zoned areas;

- No activities adversely affecting the natural state of water resources.

Development Nodes

May or may not apply, depending on negotiations.

Development restrictions

Only those specifically listed in the gazetting notice of the establishment of the Protected Environment. No sub/division of the Protected Environment is permitted, unless it is consistent with the purpose and objectives of the Protected Environment and approved by the management authority and GDARD.

Potential benefits

Incentives may include (but are not limited to) the following:

Development of management plan;

Legal costs covered;

Technical advice;

Access to public works programmes (such as Working for Water or Working for Wetlands);

Alien plant clearing assistance; and

Conservation and management expenses in terms of the management plan may be deducted from the landowner's taxable income (with conditions).


Nature Reserves

Nature Reserves are proclaimed in terms of the NEM:PAA and are augmented by agreements between landowners, GDARD and the MEC in order to protect biodiversity in the long term.

This category is reserved for sites with exceptionally high biodiversity. Sites participating at this level must make an essential contribution to the conservation of vegetation types, species, ecological processes or ecosystem services, and in doing so make a meaningful contribution to South Africa's protected area network.

The minimum duration of the agreement for Nature Reserve is 30 years, but certain Fiscal incentives only become available to agreements of 99 years (or perpetuity).

Nature Reserves are subject to restrictions in terms of permissible development and activities. Restrictions are made binding on successors in title by being lodged against the title deed of the property. In addition, an agreement is entered into between the landowner, GDARD and the MEC on the management of the site.

Substantial benefit and support is made available to landowners of Nature Reserves, including being excluded from paying property rates on the conserved area, income tax incentives and substantial support with ecological management.



Nature Reserves are proclaimed areas that are augmented with legally recognized contracts, or servitudes on private or communal land, aimed at protecting biodiversity in the long term

Inherent attributes/characteristics

This category is advised for critically important sites (outstanding biodiversity features), especially those that contain examples of threatened ecosystems or contain unique and exceptional biodiversity features — the site must make an essential contribution to the conservation of key vegetation types, species, ecological processes or ecosystem services, and in doing so make a meaningful contribution to South Africa's protected area network.

Sites adjacent to statutory reserves (strategically important) and those contributing to corridors (significant contribution to process targets) within the landscape initiatives would also qualify for this status.

Areas that have been previously disturbed would generally not quality for this status unless they played a key role in recovery of adjacent natural areas.  As with Biodiversity (Management) Agreements, alien plant infestation does not necessarily disqualify a property from receiving this status, provided the densities are low and the habitat is restorable.

Legal Status

This category has secure, legal status on a number of levels:

Proclaimed by the MEC in terms of Section 23 of NEM:PAA as a Nature Reserve.

A notarial deed is drawn up for the site detailing the restrictions which are registered on the title deed.  Any new owner is obliged to continue adhering to the restrictions in the notarial deed when the property is transferred.

The Protected Area Management Agreement is entered into between the landowner, GDARD or a willing third party.  There are several responsibilities placed on the management authority by the Act.

There is no transfer of ownership in any of these agreements.  The management agreement must therefore be resigned with any new owners.  The restrictions place on the title deed will however be binding on any such new owner.

Contractual Arrangements

Declaration Agreement – agreement to declare a Nature Reserve and the consent to the assignment of the management authority.  Signed between the landowner, GDARD, MEC in the form of a Notarial Agreement.

Protected Area Management Agreement, signed between the landowner and GDARD


These agreements are applicable from 30 years to perpetuity. However, the owner will only be eligible for fiscal incentives for contracts of a minimum of 99 years.

Focal purpose of the Category

To provide long-term protection and management to important biodiversity on private or communal land.

According to Section 17 of NEM:PAA, the purposes of protected areas are to:

Protect ecologically viable areas representative of SA’s biological diversity

Reserve the ecological integrity of those areas

Conserve biodiversity in those areas

Protect areas representative of all ecosystems, habitats and species naturally occuring in SA

Protect SA’s threatened or rare species

Protect an area which is vulnerable or ecologically sensitive

Assist in ensuring the sustained supply of environment goods and services

Provide for the sustainable use of natural and biological resources

Create or augment destinations for nature-based tourism

Manage the interrelationship between natural environmental biodiversity, human settlement and economic development

Contribute to human, social, cultural, spiritual and economic development

Rehabilitate and restore degraded ecosystems and promote the recovery of endangered and vulnerable species


There must be a management aurthority and a management plan. Access to privately-owned land is determined through the negotiation process

Restrictions on the title deed bind future owners.

Sensitive ecotourism is permitted according to principles set our in the management plan

Environmental education is permitted

Sustainable extractive resource use the is appropriate and agreed to by the conservation agency and governed by the management plan, is permitted.

Activities generally exclude –

Dumping, introduction of alien species, introduction of extra-limital or genetically distinct sub-populations of species, removal or destruction of indigenous fauna and flora, removal of any natural products from the Reserve, activities which may negatively affect the quantity or quality of water, use of off road vehicles, public access to the reserve unless agreed to by the management authority

Development Nodes

Nature Reserves require a zonation plan which makes provision for establishment of development nodes.

The landowner may choose to exclude future development nodes form the area designated as a Nature Reserve.  The landowner would be required to cover the costs of surveying and re-zoning.

Development restrictions

Development consistent with the protected area status of the Nature Reserve may be permitted. Where necessary, development rights must be sought from the appropriate authority (e.g. DEA).  Development restrictions include:

1. No new infrastructure that is incompatible with the zonation plan

2. No ploughing, cutting, ripping or transformation of any indigenous vegetation, ecosystems or habitats is permitted within the Nature Reserve (see Section 50(5) NEMA: Protected Areas Act) except for any rehabilitative measures as provided for in the management plan.

3. No commercial mining and prospecting (See Section 48(1) NEMA: Protected Areas Act) is permitted within the Nature Reserve.

4. No new placement of any transmission lines, telecommunication lines, cellular towers or public works in the Nature Reserve outside of areas zoned for such development.

5. No subdivision of the Nature Reserve is permitted, unless it is consistent with the purpose and objectives of the Nature Reserve and approved by the management authority and GDARD.

6. No operation of any trade, industry or business in/on the Nature Reserve, unless provided for in the zonation and management plans.

Potential benefits

Proclaimed area is exempt from attracting rates (Section 17,1 (e) Municipal Property Rates Act)

Substantial assistance from GDARD should be provided for specific habitat management interventions, such as alien plant clearing, fencing, and fire and game management, based on the resources available to GDARD.

These sites should also have preferential access to government land management programs, such as Working for Water.

Enhanced recognition and marketing exposure could be provided by the agency through the agencies marketing networks (e.g. website, magazine articles), should the landowner want any ecotourism assets marketed,

GDARD must compile and maintain a Management Plan for the property with the input and consent of the landowner to guide and schedule management actions.

Landowners become members of the national network of protected areas and contribute to global conservation as provided for by the Convention of Biodiversity.

Lobbied assistance from other organisations.

Conservation and management expenses in terms of the management plan may be deducted from the landowner's taxable income (with conditions).

The value of the land may be deducted from the landowne’s income tax at a rate of 10% of the land value over 10 years (various conditions apply).