20 May 2005

'Struggling' CapeNature may close some reserves

Run on what it describes as a "cut-to-the-bone" budget, CapeNature says it is under such severe financial pressure it may have to close some of its smaller reserves for up to a year or more.

"We may have to close the doors of some of the reserves, but these will be ones that are not too popular. It is costing us more to keep them open than the amount made (from) visiting tourists," said CapeNature chief executive David Daitz.

"Our cash flow is under severe pressure, so for a period we are going to have to tighten our belts."

Daitz could not yet say which reserves might be closed. Although an increase in entrance fees could not be ruled out as an option, this would be a last resort as CapeNature was "sensitive" to raising costs.

To be in a "comfortable" position, the struggling organisation needed an extra R20 million a year from the provincial Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning.

There was not enough "breathing space" for CapeNature to operate efficiently.

According to Daitz, it received about R63m a year, but this did not cover project management costs.

Although it had predicted that tourist income over this financial year would be about R12.3m, there was no "guarantee" that it would be.

Negotiations between the department and CapeNature are under way.

Daitz said CapeNature hoped to "resolve" environmental crimes sooner as fines were a source of funds.

"We will be looking to unresolved environmental crimes and try to resolve them more quickly to get an income," he said, adding that there were potentially more than 100 such cases.

Over the past financial year, fines had brought in R500 000, he said.

To ease its financial burden, CapeNature has also been "stretching creditors" and delaying payments.

Daitz insisted, however, that CapeNature was not on its "last legs".

"Where we would normally have paid within 30 days, we have had to stretch it to about 60 or 70 days."

Asked how this would affect the upkeep of the environment, Daitz said CapeNature might have to postpone certain exercises, such as clearing alien vegetation or controlled burns.

"But this may not be too big a concern initially. There may be consequences if we constantly have to postpone these kind of activities.

"In future, it may cost us more to perform these functions as there could be more vegetation to clear."

The department was "aware" of CapeNature's cash-flow problem, its head, Theo Tolmay, said.

It was "not easy to give extra money", however.

Tolmay confirmed that discussions were under way, but could not say when a resolution would be reached.

"CapeNature is managing the problem," said Tolmay.

"We will assist where we can."

Source: www.capetimes.co.za


Post a Comment

<< Home