Today, we received assurances from Knysna Municipality’s Disaster Management that the ongoing problem of illegal structures being built on the dune between Groenvallei and Smutsville will get Law Enforcement’s full attention.

This, after residents have vented dissatisfaction regarding the continued increase in the number of informal houses erected on the skyline with seemingly no response from authorities. For years, alarm bells have been ringing regarding the safety of the sensitive dune as vegetation is stripped to make room for more structures, increasing the danger of landslides and collapse. Now, this problem is further accentuated by large trails of refuse appearing down the northern edge of the dune and all too regular instances of noise pollution. After airing his frustrations on social media, Fraser Street resident Werner Bronkhorst has received a sizeable reaction from others in his neighbourhood. Photographs and drone clips of the new structures being built and the trails of waste flowing down the dune prove that this problem is far from being policed. “As you can see (from the footage posted), the extent of the rubbish is massive. The protection of the dunes is non-existent, and the environmental damage is huge,” he said in a post on a Sedgefield Locals’ Facebook group. This ‘hot potato’ sits in the hands of Knysna Municipality, specifically, Municipal Law Enforcement. However, residents claim that their attempts to get local authorities to take a stand on this issue have thus far been in vain.. With Sedgefield’s proposed low-cost housing projects still seemingly a long way from starting, never mind completion, and a steady increase in population as more people move to the Western Cape, the shortage of living space in the high-density community of Smutsville is all too real. Undoubtedly, space needs to be identified for the overflow, but this surely should not be on an unstable platform of sand that presents risks to human life, both on and below the dune. Indeed, back in 2020, the then Municipal Manager of Knysna, Michele Gratz, took this matter so seriously that she obtained a court interdict to prevent any further building there. At the time, she referred to the ongoing flurry of illegal structures on the Groenvlei dune as ‘land invasions’, saying, “The area at this stage cannot be classified as safe and stable, and in the interest of safety, we urge residents not to build on these dunes. The invasion also poses a serious risk to the integrity of this sensitive coastal landscape.” She then said that Knysna Municipality had no option but to enforce and uphold the law. “The interdict will allow the municipality to open a case of trespassing against anyone occupying land illegally, arrest anyone trespassing on the land and prosecute them successfully.” But today, residents who are living in communities below the dune claim this interdict is not being policed effectively at all, and this is causing much fear, not to mention friction between communities. Bronkhorst says they are becoming increasingly frustrated with the ongoing building of illegal dwellings, noise pollution, the amount of rubbish flowing down the side of the dune, and the consequent erosion. “Driving down Fraser Street, the dune has become an eyesore for residents and visitors alike,” he explained. “The main concern here is that numerous residents have complained about these issues, but their complaints have simply fallen on deaf ears.” He said no action had been taken, and residents were feeling powerless. “There is a unified feeling of frustration, and some residents even voiced regret about purchasing a property to spend their retirement in Groenvallei. I feel the same way,” he told us. Bronkhorst is right about the general feeling amongst Groenvallei homeowners. Whilst this issue has been covered several times in The EDGE over the years, the problem hasn’t been solved. In the past two weeks, hundreds of residents have raised their concerns, commenting on the three separate Facebook posts Werner had initiated. “The response clearly points out the frustration amongst these locals. We feel unrepresented,” he said. But it seems that help may finally be on the way. When The EDGE asked Knysna Municipality for comment on the issue of the court interdict and whether it would be enforced, we received the following response from the Head of Disaster Management, Richard Meyer. “The Cleansing Department will be conducting a targeted clean-up operation focusing on the dunes area today (30 April 2024). “The court order addressing illegal activities in the area remains in effect. In line with this order, our Law Enforcement officers, with the assistance of the South African Police Service (SAPS), are tasked with the responsibility of dismantling structures erected in violation of the law. Our Law Enforcement team also closely monitors any building additions for the breakdown of these structures to ensure compliance with legal requirements. “We understand the importance of upholding the law and preserving the integrity of our natural spaces. Therefore, we urge all residents to cooperate with the municipality and act within the law.”