Conservation: Rates exclusion provision benefits owners

Formal declaration of a conservation area
A Tsitsikamma property owner no longer has to pay rates, thanks to the implementation of a little-known rates exclusion provision which is designed to promote conservation.

In the news recently was the story of the application for property rates exclusion by an owner of a contract national park which forms part of the Garden Route National park. He was assisted by Wilderness Foundation Africa.

The application involved the provisions of section 17(1)(e) of the Municipal Property Rates Act. The section contains a mechanism to assist owners of protected areas on private or communal land by obliging municipalities to exclude such conservation areas from paying municipal property rates. Portions used for commercial agricultural or residential purposes are excluded from the rebate. The provision clearly encourages landowners to formally declare areas as protected and conserve biodiversity. On another conservation note, the Botanical Gardens Expansion Strategy was recently gazetted after it was approved for implementation at a Cabinet meeting held on 18 November 2020.

Certain provinces do not have any botanical gardens yet (North West and Limpopo). There is also no demonstration garden representing the country’s desert biome.  The Strategy will address these shortcomings, amongst other things.

In doing so, government’s intention is to partner with agencies, institutions, private landowners and the management of existing conservation areas with the aim, amongst other things, to minimize the need to acquire ‘new private land on behalf of the state’.