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National Veld and Forest Fire Bill Tabled

December 15, 2021

Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment

The National Veld and Forest Fire Amendment Bill has been tabled in parliament.

The forestry, fisheries and the environment department published the bill’s explanatory summary in Government Gazette 45449 in November 2021.

The explanatory summary indicates that uncontrolled veldfires are responsible for environmental degradation, loss of jobs, displacement of communities, and general destruction of infrastructure, livestock, habitat and biodiversity.

Cabinet approved the proposed legislation at the end of September 2021 for tabling in parliament.

According to the cabinet statement, the bill was first submitted to parliament in 2017 but was sent back for further consultation with the public.

Cabinet highlighted that, among other provisions, the bill establishes structures in the public sector and at community level that will work together to mitigate veldfire risks and promote effective compliance and law enforcement.

The bill aims to amend the National Veld and Forest Fire Act, 1998, so as to:

• amend and insert certain definitions;
• provide for the facilitation of the formation of fire protection associations by a municipality or a traditional council;
• compel a municipality, state-owned enterprise, public entity or other organ of state which owns land to join the fire protection associations;
• extend the powers of entry, search, seizure and arrest to peace officers and traditional leaders;
• amend the title of the Act to the National Veldfire Act; and
• provide for matter connected therewith.

The portfolio committee on environment, forestry and fisheries will process the bill.

Meanwhile, in a statement, the department announced that the forestry, fisheries and the environment minister, Barbara Creecy, has accepted a set of recommendations by the Consultative Advisory Forum (CAF) appointed to advise on the West Coast Rock Lobster fishery.

The department points out that “necessary regulatory processes will be followed to give expression to this decision”.

The report recommends that the total allowable catch (TAC) be “increased for the 2021/22 season to 700 tons from the present 600 tons given the dire socio-economic conditions of fishers reliant on WCRL for their livelihood”.

The CAF was appointed in November 2021 to advise on the West Coast Rock Lobster fishery following concerns raised by fishing communities about the reduction of the West Coast Rock Lobster TAC for the present season based on challenges linked to declining stocks.