“Invasive trees such as pines and gums burn ten times hotter than fynbos and fires occurring in areas invaded by listed alien plants are difficult to bring under control”, says Louise Stafford, project leader of the Green Jobs Unit which manage the City’s invasive species control teams.
In both the 2000 and 2015 Cape fires, homes alongside nature reserves surrounded by invasive species such as gums, wattle and eucalyptus were more likely to experience infrastructure damage, as opposed to properties that were cleared of invasive species.
“The repetition of damage to houses and infrastructure can be avoided by taking action to clear invaded areas now”, says Stafford. “As with the fires in January 2000, it was almost always where there were invasive plants that houses were destroyed in the March 2015 fires”, says Stafford.
Landowners duty of care
The Invasive Alien Species Regulations and Lists of the National Environmental Biodiversity Act, 2004 (NEMBA), which came into effect in October 2014, categorizes invader plants into four different categories. Category 1a and 1b plants are to be controlled, to keep category 2 plants one needs a permit and category 3 plants are exempted, but certain conditions apply such as trade.
The NEMBA IAS Regulations also require every landowner to exercise Duty of Care by amongst others, notifying the Department of Environmental Affairs, Biosecurity Compliance of invasive species on their properties.
Joint information initiative launched
Against this background, the Environmental Programmes, Department of Environmental Affairs, in partnership with Table Mountain National Park (TMNP) and the City of Cape Town will launch an initiative to increase awareness about landowners’ obligations in terms of the NEMBA Regulations and the fire risk posed by invasive plants.
“The initiative will focus initially on engaging property owners on the urban edge, and more specifically the 114 properties abutting the Table Mountain National Park” says Dr Guy Preston, Deputy Director-General: Environmental Programmes, Department of Environmental Affairs.
To this end, an information brochure, entitled Invasives and the Cape Fires has been launched and printed for distribution to residents. Members from the Volunteer Wildfire Services, and the Cape Peninsula Fire Protection Association plan to visit property owners abutting TMNP to inform them about the requirements of the NEMBA Regulations and offer guidance on clearing invasive plants and making their properties fire safe.
This awareness raising initiative will be rolled out to the rest of the City during the next few months.
The Biosecurity Compliance Unit (Green Scorpions) of the Department of Environmental Affairs’ will be closely involved in this initiative. “The plan is to follow up the distribution of information, by issuing notices and directives to landowners who do not comply with requests to review the safety of residents by removing potentially dangerous invasive species from their properties”, says Dr Preston.
Join an Invasive Species Forum
To further inform residents, the City of Cape Town will launch a series of Invasive Species Forums.
The first forum will be hosted for residents in the far south and will take place during National Invasive Species Week at 9am on Tuesday October 13, in the Fish Hoek Community Hall, Recreation Road, Fish Hoek.
Other dates will be announced for forums at Alphen hall, Table Bay Nature Reserve and Tygerberg Nature Reserve.