The Kruger National Park (KNP) held three stakeholder workshops in a 'first round' engagement with stakeholders. "Adopting an innovative approach for the first time in South African National Parks (SANParks), Kruger chooses to engage stakeholders from the beginning of the process for their ideas and suggestions to inform them about the management plan.," says Sue Eber, project manager.
This participative approach will continue throughout the process of the development of its management plan as is required by the National Environmental Management Protected Areas Act (Act no 57 of 2003). The workshops were held at Malumelele, Phalaborwa and Hazyview and will be followed by a 'second round' of workshops where stakeholder will be able to see where their comments and suggestions have been incorporated into the draft management plan.
"The objectives of these workshops are to inform stakeholders of the park management plan process and to request their input for the management plan," says Sue. Kruger's mandate is derived from the SANParks mandate, which is to manage South Africa's conservation treasures for present and future generations.
This is legislated and SANParks is appointed as the managing authority to perform this task. Kruger's mission is to: maintain biodiversity in all its natural1 facets and fluxes, to provide human benefits and build a strong constituency and to preserve as far as possible the wilderness qualities and cultural resources associated with the Park.
To achieve its mission, within its mandate, Kruger's (Sanparks) operations are founded on three pillars - conservation, nature based tourism and people and conservation. These are reflected in the management plan. The first part of the stakeholder workshops comprised information sessions where stakeholders gained background information about Kruger's management plan, the statutory requirements, the management framework, time frames and the process.
The second session entailed the inputs from the floor and this is where the dynamics and priorities of the various regions came to the fore. In the far north, the primary issue on stakeholders' minds was access related; access to the park and activities and access to the wealth of knowledge Kruger has accumulated over the years.
In the other regions, stakeholders were interested in business opportunities and a strong concern was raised about conserving the tourism experience. At the workshops stakeholders identified several opportunities within the park that would enhance the value of the park, suggesting greater access to waterholes, learnerships for tourism students, and the promotion of cultural tourism for Kruger's tourist by partnerships with the neighbouring communities. Stakeholders also came out strongly in-favour of supporting wilderness in Kruger, as one of its vital attributes as "wilderness is sacrosanct and should not go the highest bidder."
Another input was to have two entry points at the gates - one for Wild card holders and the other for non-Wild card holders. Ben van Eeden, northern regional manager, indicated that this option is already on the cards, to be introduced once the new Phalaborwa Gate has been finalised. According to Sue, having the various inputs is the point of the whole engagement exercise. "We want to establish what is valuable and important for each and every one of Kruger's stakeholders and how we can address the relevant issues in the management plan."
During the same workshop, the Park introduced a tourism asset assessment (TAA) study of Kruger, which will be done as part of the tourism management plan, which is part of the Kruger management plan. The main objective of the TAA is to identify the nature-based tourism opportunities within the Park, the market demand and align these with consideration of the surrounding tourism products currently on offer in the contractual parks and Associated and Private Nature Reserves (APNRs).
Once these opportunities have been evaluated against the demand, the required facilities, activities and services required to make these successful products will be evaluated. The tourism asset assessment will form an essential part of the final zoning plan for the park that will include biodiversity, tourism and heritage attributes of the park.
The stakeholder process entails consultation workshops, interviews, report reviews, feedback sessions, focus group meetings, comments and suggestions. All inputs will be included in the various lower level plans for the park that will be summarized into Kruger's overall management plan.
Central to Kruger's stakeholder engagement process is the need to determine what are the important issues for all of its stakeholders. What is it that each one of us regards as valuable, as the factor(s) that would contribute to the desired state of the park?
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