The shareholders continue to manage the finances of the farm in an open manner. DTF have been transparent with the running costs of the farm. These include weeding, rapidly rising fish stocking costs, Eskom, wages, repair, road maintenance, fences, jetty repairs, building repairs mowing, fire breaks, fuel, and water filtration and so on. In consultation with DTF it was agreed that an increase in the monthly membership fee would be increased by 6.8% to R730 a monthwhich includes the R20.00 levy. A decision has been taken by the Committee to add R10 a month towards the club’s FOSAF subscription.
As per the above, the new monthly membership fee is effectively R740 per month.
Some extracts of the Chairman's Report have been copied into this newsletter, however for a full copy of the report please click here
Fishing & Stocking Report
Our season commences on June 1 and up to the end of November we have stocked 993 rainbows and 92 browns. Last year we stocked as many rainbows, but the average size was smaller as the producers had to cut back on feeding due to poor water flows at the beginning of 2017. Basically, we prefer to buy rainbows at the 700g mark or larger to try and reduce predation by cormorants, and although these are still attacked by the larger white-breasted they are probably too large for the many smaller reed cormorants which play an important role in controlling the numerous small bass in Dams 5 and 6.
Regarding the browns, we may double up the stocking in 2019. This is because they appear much sought after and many of our members have still to catch one.
Fishing results for the 5 month period - June to end October 2018 compared with 2017
From what we hear the fish are in good condition and fighting hard. Naturally we are concerned about the dry start to the summer season and the fierce heat of the week starting 12 November which has resulted in trout mortality at least a couple of the Dullstroom destinations. It is therefore important to use catch and release with discretion while these high temperatures persist.
Fishing off the Dam 5 jetty is forbidden as this is solely for the grass carp project. In addition, the planks are in poor condition and the end section is not very stable.
One of the family orientated initiatives we introduced this year was the MTB weekend. The MTB track that was originally set up by Janine and Len, God rest his soul, has been resurrected with new signage to make navigating the 7km route easier. These have been demarcated with green arrow signs, the first of which is at the gate as you leave the house.
A MTB weekend was held in October and was good fun. This included a 45km trip to Dullstroom and back, relying on beers and pancakes to make it back. An event we will definitely look to repeat.
The Mining Wars
In November the High Court set aside permission to mine coal in the Mabola Protected Environment between Wakkerstroom and Volksrust. The judgement came as a major morale booster for us, and the entire environmental lobby. The judge had some scathing words to say about the behaviour of the two ministers driving the permission to mine, the DMR Minister and the Minister of Environmental Affairs whose department should be the very last to be complicit in the rape of the environment in a protected area.
The latest on the WPB Colliery (Bower) near the Elandsfontein crossroads is that they have closed for the time being as the contractors have packed and left and WPB are searching for another company to take over. In the meantime, we have at last had confirmation from the Nkangala Municipality that the land has not been rezoned for mining, but the Municipality refuse to take responsibility and prosecute. The Federation for a Sustainable Environment, one of our major allies is therefore preparing with our help to take the matter to court. Considerable damage has been done at the site but we are determined not to let this illegal action go unpunished.
Regarding the Ibhubesi mine opposite us we are awaiting the outcome of our appeal. This means we need a response from the DMR (Mining Department) regional office in Witbank which is currently closed because of investigations into corruption. However, we believe that Ibhubesi have now accepted that they will never be permitted to proceed, and it is up to the anti-mining lobby to ensure that the site is fully rehabilitated.
In the last 2 months there was an application for large scale prospecting to the south of our Greater Lakenvlei Protected Area. All Interested & Affected parties were advised to oppose the application and the result was that the application was withdrawn within a week.
The Greater Lakenvlei Protected Environment
As you are aware our farm is the centre point of this 14 000 - hectare protected area which was declared in April 2017. It was with some pride that the landowner’s association under the energetic leadership of Andy Mills, a local landowner, received the prestigious stewardship award for 2018 from the Wetlands Association of SA. Apart from taking a lead in the fight against mining the GLPELA will be focusing on the promotion of tourism and the control and eradication of invasive plants and trees such as gums and wattles.
An extra weeding weekend was carried out in mid-November on Dams 1 and 2 and in October another 100 young triploid grass carp were placed in our cages. In February we will be releasing about 95 of the older grass carp to bring the number stocked since 2015 to about 290. This sounds a lot, but one must take into consideration predation and the fact that it takes about 5 – 6 years for them to reach a size where they have a significant impact on the weed. So, for the time being we will have to rely on mechanical weeding.
Middelpunt Farm & The Environment
The DTF has employed the services of Francois De Wet, a consultant, who is widely respected expert in veld management to advise on this matter on a long-term basis.
His first report based on a 2 -day visit in November indicated that our veld is in quite good condition, however if we implement his recommendations we can expect a significant improvement commencing in about 3 years of both carrying capacity and also plant, bird and animal diversity.
We are also fortunate that the Lakenvlei wetland and surrounds has been selected for an offset by Glencor. This miner will be damaging wetlands in the Oogies area and to compensate for this they must implement conservation measures in another wetland. To date they have been working on the area above Dam 3 and although they have found few problems they will install barriers to slow down run-off and most probably fence off the wetland to prevent further trampling by cattle.
We are indeed fortunate that Africa’s rarest bird, the white winged flufftail has been found to breed on our farm. You may certainly walk through the veld above Dam 3 but please do not try entering the wetland itself as this is an extremely shy creature. BirdLife SA organise a drive every second year and if you wish to try and see the bird you must join one of these visits.
The Trout Wars
It is important to note that this is no longer about TROUT. The draft Biodiversity Bill will deprive citizens of the right of ownership of living things and genetic resources. Control will be permit driven and the Minister will only consult where he/she sees fit and we will be very much at the mercy of the Minister’s inspectors who will have the power to issue or decline permits as they see fit – thus increasing the chance for corruption.
For this reason, FOSAF, with the encouragement of its allies are taking the DEA (Department of Environmental Affairs) to court. It was originally enrolled for January 2019, but now the DEA have given notice that they will oppose it and so it will be later in the year. What is frustrating for FOSAF is that the answering affidavit is still awaited from the DEA who are well out of time.
The draft Aquaculture Development Bill which is before parliament is about as bad. If not amended as requested by FOSAF and its allies who include BUSA, AquaSA and AgriSA it will be a major setback for fish farming and probably prevent the entry of emerging fish farmers. No doubt there is a political agenda at work here and the next step could be to try and control all agriculture.
If both Bills are not significantly amended, we do not expect to be denied permits to stock trout, but inevitably these will become scarce and much more expensive and we could, like every other destination, be forced to undertake costly Risk Assessments. Sadly, this matter may also end up in court.
What is also disappointing is the lack of action or even interest by the DEA in the Vaal River disaster. Once again it is civil society led by SAVE (Save our Vaal Environment) leading the charge with FOSAF also very much involved.