State to crack down on invasive aliens – landowners could face legal claims: In the wake of the recent destructive fires in the Cape Peninsula, government is to crack down on landowners who have failed to clear invasive alien vegetation on their properties along the urban fringe.

As reported in Newsletter 72, landowners are obliged to control or clear all four categories of alien invaders from their properties and to make proper firebreaks (National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act 10 of 2004). Landowners could face legal claims if fires that started on their properties spread to and cause damage on other people’s property (Melanie Gosling, Cape Times, 19 March 2015).
During the 2014 fire season in the eastern Free State, about 200 000ha grazing had been destroyed by August already, and the whole area had to be declared a disaster area. By September 2014, Free State livestock farmers had lost 285 000ha in 77 veld fires. As the rainy season only starts there in October, many farmers did not have sufficient grazing for their animals, while feed costs were soaring. Even if it rains well after such fires, the burnt areas sometimes need to rest for about two seasons before coming into production again. Whatever the cause of these fires, it becomes virtually impossible to fight them in wind speeds of 60 and 70km/h. Winds were even stronger in the wake of a number of cold fronts, which caused problems for helicopter fire fighting. According to Thinus Steenkamp, general manager of the Free State Umbrella Fire Association, damage to grazing was estimated at about R200 million, with fire fighting costs amounting to about R450 000. For the 2015 fire season, an additional 29 skid units and 73 trained fire fighters will be needed to meet the basic standards for disaster management in the area. (Farmer’s Weekly, 12, 19 & 26 September 2014).
In our area we thankfully experienced very few veld fires during the 2014 fire season, and we should all strive to keep it like that and/or improve our fire fighting efforts.