Rethink Richards Bay Naval Island closure, ex-mayor urges port authority
22 January 2020 | Web Article Number: ME201917611
FORMER Richards Bay mayor Elphas Mbatha has added his weight to calls form the local civic and business community to reopen the city’s popular Naval Island recreational area.
Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA), proprietor of the Naval Island and surrounding sites at the Port of Richards Bay, closed off the sites at the start of the festive season last December, citing “ongoing incidents and challenges with inappropriate public use of the sites”.
The port sites now restricted to the public are Naval Island, the Action Cricket Shed, the Small Craft Harbour and the Dredger Reclaim Berth, near Alkantstrand.
Port Manager, Thami Sithole said there would be controlled access to restaurants at the Small Craft Harbour to allow genuine patrons through while prohibiting uncontrolled loitering in areas such as the parking lots. The grass area in front of the Action Cricket Shed will be closed off “to discourage parking, loitering and disorderly behaviour”.
“We appreciate that Naval Island and the other sites are popular recreational destinations in Richards Bay. However, there has been recurring inappropriate use of the sites, despite our best efforts to encourage the community to act responsibly and to ensure that the Island is properly maintained,” Sithole said.
“It is understood that this proposed action will be to the detriment of the broader community and visitors to Richards Bay, however the port has opted for the higher obligation, which is the preservation of life, protection of its assets and safety of operations.”
He said several safety and security incidents had occurred at Naval Island and the associated sites. “Loud parties are held at night. Pollution, dumping of waste and litter are ongoing challenges, despite daily litter picking and regular clean-ups by TNPA.”
Additionally, “members of the public continued with illegal swimming and drownings have unfortunately occurred”.
But former mayor, Mbatha, has urged the authority to rethink the decision. In an open letter to the TNPA, written in his personal capacity, he described the decision as a “regressive step which will have negative consequences not only for the residents of Richards Bay, but for thousands of tourists that come from different parts of South Africa and abroad to enjoy themselves”.
He added: “Naval Island offers tourists an opportunity to view or watch the ships entering and leaving the port of Richards Bay, including the waterfront without any obstruction, which is rare in South Africa.”