News / South Africa

Eugene Gunning
3 minute read
18 Oct 2018
12:25 pm

George beaches once again fail to achieve blue flag status

Eugene Gunning

A dip in beachgoers during the festive season is expected.

Victoria Bay in George is one of the region's most popular tourist destinations. Image: Twitter/@sure_kamhunga

Just like last year, no beaches that fall under the George municipality were granted blue flag status this year, reports George Herald.

Blue flag status is an eco-label for beaches, marinas, and boats that allows tourists to trust a beach for being clean, environmentally sound, and for adhering to international safety and water quality standards.

Blue flag season starts on November 1 each year. This year, 66 beaches and marinas were granted this status; namely 46 beaches and eight marinas. The Western Cape has the most beaches with blue flag status, with 30 of its beaches being awarded.

ALSO READ: PICS: 10 beautiful Blue Flag beaches in SA

In the Southern Cape, Mossel Bay, Knysna, Hessequa municipality, and Bitou beaches were awarded blue flag status.

The beach in Wilderness achieved “pilot-status”, which means that work is being done in order for it to achieve blue flag status.

Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) manager Vincent Shacks told the George Herald that the blue flag programme in South Africa began in 2001 and has grown exponentially each year.

Municipalities are responsible for applying to have their flag status evaluated every year. This process begins in March, and municipalities are given two months to prepare their proposals.

After this, a terrain inspection is done. This year, most inspections were successful in awarding blue flag status to the beaches in question.

According to Shacks, the standard is very high, and achieving this prestigious status gets more challenging each year. This is because of sea water quality challenges and budget issues at many municipalities.

Shacks said George did not apply to have its beaches evaluated this year. “WESSA was surprised. George beaches have excellent facilities. Some of the country’s most popular beaches are in this region.”

Rumours are doing the rounds that the George municipality’s application for blue flag status was handed over to the Garden Route municipality.

When asked about this, mayor of the Bitou municipality Memory Booysen said that no such application was received.

District municipalities in coastal regions hold blue flag status in high esteem and offer support where needed. However, Booysen can only assist the municipality once their application is received. “We do everything in our power to ensure blue flag status,” he said.

According to Booysen, tourists research the status of a beach before deciding to visit. “We would like to ensure that all coastal towns in the region achieve blue flag status.”

He also said the municipality will aid in assisting George’s beaches, to ensure that they achieve blue flag status.

Western Cape DA chairperson of finance Andricus van der Westhuizen said the question that needs to be asked is what economic value achieving this status has for municipalities and visitors. He also did not know why George failed to apply: “George’s beaches are known for their cleanliness and facilities without achieving blue flag status.”

What must also be kept in mind is that George’s beaches have a limit on the number of visitors permitted in peak times.

According to van der Westhuizen, there is currently an investigation into the economic benefits and the costs associated with environmental regulations and infrastructure standards.

George municipality manager Trevor Botha said achieving blue flag status has cost implications to start the application process, as well as to retain the status.

“George’s beaches are clean and safe. There are lifeguards on duty at peak times, and this has cost implications.”

Botha added that the George municipality in no way opposes the blue flag programme.

This article was translated from Afrikaans by Nica Schreuder. 

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