Have you declared the Invasive Species on your property?
 
In terms of current legislation, invasive species are a liability to every property owner. Invasive species are controlled by the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (NEMBA) which became law on 1 October 2014. It states that a person who is the owner of land on which a listed invasive species occurs must notify any relevant competent authority in writing of the listed invasive species occurring on that land. In practice this means that you need to lodge a Declaration of Invasive Species form, completed by a registered authority, with the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA). For properties below 1 hectare in size only a list of invasive species is required; for properties above 1 hectare a management plan must also be submitted, by the deadline of 01 October 2016. Forms can be downloaded at www.invasives.org.za and then sent by email to: AIScompliance@environment.gov.za (or) fax: 086 604 4080.
Thereafter steps need to be taken to control and eradicate the listed invasive species and to prevent them from spreading, while taking all the required steps to prevent or minimise harm to biodiversity. Every landowner also has a 'duty of care' to remove invasive species from their land.
The regulations state further that the seller of any immovable property must, prior to the conclusion of the relevant sale agreement, notify the purchaser of that property in writing of the presence of listed invasive species on that property, so essentially the Declaration mentioned above must be provided to prospective purchasers as well as the DEA. This is because the liability passes to the new owner.
 
Pamela Booth, invasive species consultant on the Garden Route (pam@edentoaddo.co.za or 082 875 03420), said: “There are no precedents or standards yet for the cost of drafting a declaration. The cost of a control/management plan is contingent on the size of the property and the density and distribution of the invasive plants. Ask for a quotation and be clear on the level of detail you need; i.e. do you also want the plan to provide costing information (cost of clearing the property) or do you only require a description of the species and a schedule for clearing over time. Completion of a management plan can take anything from one day to two weeks depending on the size of the property.”
 
With all the legislation affecting property owners it can sometimes be a bit overwhelming, but one must bear in mind that this is actually “good” and necessary legislation. The Garden Route falls within the Fynbos Biome, which is home to one of the richest selection of flora (and fauna) on the planet. It is under threat, with only a tiny fraction remaining pristine. Aliens not only usurp the land from indigenous species, but also consume so much more water that they threaten water supplies in an already water-scarce country. This legislation will help to control the spread of alien species and thereby reduce the threat to biodiversity and our water supply.
 
There are different categories of invasive species: 1a: combat and eradicate, 1b: require control, 2: require a permit (and control), 3: exempt (unless in a riparian zone or under a management plan).
 
If, for whatever reason, owners wish to keep an invasive species that requires a permit on their property (e.g. retain gum trees on boundary), they must complete the application form and submit it to the DEA. If a permit is issued, it will be valid for a maximum of 5 years and this permit belongs to the person, not the property, so when a property is sold, the new owner must apply for a new permit. It is R100 for a permit and R50 for a renewal.
 
We all need to play our part in protecting our environment. For example, when landowners clear their land of Black Wattle, but a neighbour doesn’t, their land will continue to be infested from the neighbouring property.
 
Report the presence of alien species to the National Crimes and Incident HOTLINE 0800 205 005 or email AIScompliance@environment.gov.za
 
A directive will be issues to offending parties, and non-compliance with a directive can lead to fines up to R5million (R10million for subsequent convictions) &/or 10 years in prison.
 
Hein Pretorius, the owner principal of Sotheby’s International Realty Plettenberg Bay, says: “This legislation impacts on all landowners, but will obviously have a particularly big impact on rural properties. It also affects estate agents and conveyancing. Estate agents need to disclose defects and the presence of invasive species will now need to be formally disclosed.”
 
Pam Booth said that an invasive species consultant is someone who has attended South African Green Council (SAGIC) Invasive Species training. “They are conversant with the completion of the Declaration of Invasive Species form and are able to draft a sensible and practical invasive species management plan.” They can assist estate agents and sellers to check properties and sign off on the Declaration of Invasive Species. They are not to be confused with Environment Management Inspectors (EMI) who are officials appointed by DEA or provincial organ of state state to enforce the Act. EMIs work closely with prosecutors to ensure the successful prosecution of NEMA offenders.”
 
“An experienced invasive plant specialist will be able to map all the invasive species based on one site visit if the property is less than 20hectares. A larger property with a variety of land use types (agriculture, conservation, residiential) may require more than one site visit. Once the map is completed and each stand of invasive plants is given a management unit number an accompanying spreadsheet will reflect the following information:
 
  1. Size of management unit (e.g. hectares);
  2. Species;
  3. Density – 1-5% etc;
  4. Age of species (Mature, seedling etc);
  5. Methods – cut stump, foliar application of herbicide, hand-pulling;
  6. Person days required to clear each stand;
  7. Herbicide;
  8. Transport if applicable;
  9. Equipment (chainsaw, slasher, herbicide sprayer etc).”
 
Note that you can also get herbicide assistance from DEA and/or Water Wise. You will need to provide DEA with the exact species and the extent of the infestation, so that the correct quantity and application can be provided to you.
 
There are also tax benefits, so speak to your tax consultant.
 
Municipalities also need to submit their own Invasive Species Monitoring, Control & Eradication Plans by the deadline.
 
There are currently 559 regulated invasive species, including animals, birds, reptiles, insects, fish, amphibians, terrestrial and marine invertebrates and even microbial species. A few of the more prevalent invasives in the Garden Route area are: Black Wattle, Rooikrans, Port Jackson, Blackwood, Madeira Vine, Syringa, Oleander, Eucalyptus, Castor Oil, Water Hyacinth, Kariba Weed, Giant Reed, Spanish Broom, etc.
 
Pam Booth had the following advice: “Biological control for black wattle is an excellent way of controlling seed production. The midge Dasineura rubiformis, is now widely available and should be introduced to dense stands to prevent the accumulation of seed in the soil. A natural stump treatment for black wattle is available free of charge from the Plant Protection Research Institute in Stellenbosch. It’s called Stumpout and can be applied to black wattle stumps instead of costly herbicide - contact Gwen Samuels samuelsg@arc.agric.za
 
“Keep an eye out for emerging weeds along the Garden Route, these tend to be fairly inconspicuous initially (Lantana camarra; Acacia stricta) but once established they are costly and difficult to control. They also have a tendency to move into areas that have been cleared of established weeds like black wattle or gum. “
 
For more information, go to: www.invasives.org.za &/or www.sagic.co.za (for a list of accredited invasive species practitioners, forms, applications, etc.) and check “Stop the Spread” Facebook page.
 
This report was compiled by Steven Neufeld, Manager Principal of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty Plettenberg Bay, and Professional Valuer and Court Appointed Appraiser for South African Property Valuations®. 044 533 2529 (or) 072 417 7731
steve.sir@plettenbergbay.com