Hon Deputy Speaker, hon Deputy President, hon Ministers, ladies and gentlemen, and hon members, I want to start with some thank yous. The first is to my long-suffering portfolio committee. I want to thank all the members, across party lines, for the tremendous work that they have done. At the moment we are trying to process eight pieces of legislation. We have now finalised five, and three of them are at an advanced stage of processing. So, I really want to thank all the members for going that extra mile. Then, I would like to thank the department, the Minister and the Deputy Minister for the excellent support and service they have given us.
Today we were going to deal with four pieces of legislation. You have heard that we are dealing with only three, and I will give some background to that.
Firstly, with regard to the Protected Areas Amendment Bill, that we are debating today, there has been a difference of opinion as to the tagging of this Bill. The Bill is tagged presently as a section 75 Bill. The committee is of the view that it should be tagged as a section 76 Bill. Although we are debating this matter today, it will be referred back to the committee until this tagging issue has been dealt with and then the Bill will be passed.
The fourth Bill, which is not here today although we passed it in the committee, is the South African Weather Service Bill. This Bill was introduced in Parliament in November 2011 and was tagged as a section 75 Bill. Then, after we had processed the Bill, one or two constitutional matters were raised and the Bill was withdrawn. It was then introduced again in July this year. On Tuesday, when we passed the Bill, we heard for the first time that the Bill has not been tagged in Parliament; hence we will not be able to debate the Bill.
Let me then turn to the three Bills, which all deal with environmental matters. As you are aware, the National Environmental Management Act, Act 107 of 1998, which we call Nema, is the umbrella environmental framework legislation which provides the bedrock for environmental management in South Africa.
Then there are other specific environmental management acts, which we call Semas, and which were promulgated after dealing with specific media of environment. They deal with air quality, coastal management, protected areas, etc. Today we are amending three of those Semas. As you have heard from the Minister, they are complicated in some senses. Firstly, let me deal with the Air Quality Amendment Bill. The issue of air quality is relatively complicated in our constitutional dispensation because it is one of those matters - air quality and air pollution - that have been given to local government to deal with. Today in our country, when atmospheric emission licences have to be given, they are given by local government.
We all know that there are difficulties at local government level with regard to capacity, and particularly complicated capacity like this, where companies want to open a factory which will emit atmospheric emissions, and then they want licences. We have had quite a number of problems at the local government level with the issuing of these licences and we will deal with them.
The constitutional dispensation creates some problems. You know that in our Constitution we have schedule 4, which deals with concurrent powers. Environment and nature conservation fall under concurrent powers. At one stage the Constitution was amended to deal with local government issues. At that stage, the Minister of Finance was probably part of it and I opposed it at the time. Now, that is probably why I am getting my own back at this stage! The Constitution was amended and there were certain issues around local government which were added to schedule 4. Those issues are dealt with in schedule 4, but are administered at local government level. Air pollution is one of those.
The problem is, of course, that they put it in schedule 4, which is the concurrent power between national and provincial levels. You can imagine the kind of constitutional scenarios that arise when one tries to debate this issue. It is a complicated issue and we have tried our best to stay within the confines of our Constitution.
As I have said, there are certain capacity problems at local government level. No one wants to take away the powers of local government, but equally, especially for developmental purposes for example, in their giving licences to open factories and so on, we cannot rely totally on the capacity of local government that cannot produce, give licences and follow up.
What we have done is to create a whole host of tools in the area of the environment and those tools will allow for interventions from higher up in government down to local government level to make sure that those functions are fulfilled. One is not trying to take away the functions of local government, but to capacitate local government. There are certain procedures that have to be followed, and only when there has been a failure to do something within the timeframes, will the MEC or the Minister in the area of environment will intervene and take over the function in that specific application. I want to emphasise that in the specific application that has been submitted the MEC or the Minister can take over the decision to issue such a licence or not.
We have also provided that when such a power is moved from local government up to the MEC or the Minister, the timeframes are also applicable to them. If the MEC, for example, has not intervened and fulfilled his function properly and within the timeframes, then the applicant can also make an application to the Minister. You can see we have created a much nuanced system, in which we have tried to make sure that where there is a failure to meet the timeframes applicants can try to get to a higher authority. We have set out in the Act all the procedures that must be followed. Most of them have an assisting nature to try to allow local government to fulfil its function and only after all has been done and there is still a failure will the function be taken over by the MEC or the Minister.
The second area that we have dealt with is making sure that the national Minister is the national competent authority in those functions in the area of atmospheric emissions that are usually fulfilled at the national level. There are five such instances in the Act, again to make sure that there is a proper functioning of the system. Firstly, where the provincial organ of state is the applicant for an atmospheric emission licence, the Minister will be the competent authority. When there is a transmunicipal application, of course, one of them can't deal with it, and then the Minister will be the national competent authority.
In the Nema and the National Environmental Management: Waste Act, the Minister is the competent authority in certain areas, and in the area of air emissions the Minister will remain the competent authority. You will remember that with regard to Nema, as we explained last time, we have allowed, where there are bigger infrastructure projects, for Cabinet actually to decide whether that infrastructure is a national priority. If it is a national priority, the decisions around environmental issues for air emissions will be dealt with by the national Minister.
Lastly, there is the complicated area of mining activity. We are already busy with the Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources, trying to harmonise and synchronise all the licensing procedures for the environment and for mining. To facilitate that process, we are also making the Minister the competent authority where there is a mining activity and we are dealing with atmospheric emissions. We have provided that when the Minister deals with a mining matter, she will do so after consultation with the municipality.
Then, as I said to you previously when we dealt with Nema, our environmental laws did not have procedures to deal with people when they proceed with activities that actually have not been authorised and impinge on the environment. So, we amended section 24(g) of Nema in the previous legislation.
However, in the area of air quality, we do not have a similar clause to curb unlawful activities that may be taking place. There is no procedure allowing the Minister to intervene and take remedial action. Now, we have provided for such a procedure in the legislation.
It has been quite complicated to do, so we dealt with three different scenarios. Firstly, when there is a lack of an environmental impact assessment and someone has started to emit emissions, in that instance section 24(g) of Nema will still be applicable, and not this Act.
When the old Act, which is the forerunner of this Act and which we call Appa, the Atmospheric Pollution Prevention Act or something or other ...[Laughter.] ... was in operation, there were also unlawful activities under that Act, and we have now provided that unlawful activities under that Act can be dealt with using the procedures that we have provided for in this Act.
The third scenario is the instance when someone has had an EIA done, but they start emitting emissions from their factory when they do not have a licence yet. In that instance we have provided for procedures in this Act that will make sure that the Minister has powers to intervene and take remedial action.
There are quite a few other issues under this Act, but I will skip them for now.
The second Bill is the Integrated Coastal Management Amendment Bill, a very important piece of legislation. This is the amendment of a thick Act that deals with all aspects of the sea and the coast. Our work has been bedevilled for a long time by problems with the major concept and definition in this Act of public coastal property.
Public coastal property is all that territory in South Africa from the high water mark right into the sea until where our territory ends. That is called the coastal public property. Coastal public property is kept by the state in trust for the citizens of this country. No one should be able to own that property and this Act has provided for that for some time now. The previous Act, when it was passed, did two things. Firstly, it amended some of the clauses and in the end the amendment did not cater for every situation. Organisations like Transnet in particular felt that these amendments that were made previously did not clearly cater for what they wanted.
Secondly, in that previous Act an exemption was created, where Parliament on certain occasions could pass a resolution and could exclude certain land from the definition of coastal public property. Of course, that is absolutely a loophole for disaster to come in. Some of you will remember the problems we had here at the Waterfront when Transnet tried to give away half of South Africa to private owners and tried to sell off the land.
What we have done now is create a very clear definition of coastal public property. We have very clearly stated that infrastructure, particularly in ports and harbours, remains the property of whoever the owner is using it, which is Transnet. We have stated this very clearly, because Transnet came and also wanted to own the sea! They said the sea and the harbour should belong to them. We said, "No way! You can jump off the bus right now! We are not going to allow that." What we made quite clear was that the use of the sea space in a harbour or a port would not be affected by this legislation.
So, I think these definitions are quite clear and there shouldn't be further problems. I think everyone is as happy as one can be.
Of course, the previous regime also included leases over coastal properties. We are doing away with the whole lease system because sometimes you have leases that are 99 years long! That is equivalent to ownership. We are doing away with the system of the leasing properties. That will be phased out over a period of time and we are introducing a permit system that clearly stipulates that the ownership vests with the state. This will be by way of permits, and not by way of leases or ownership, when we deal with these properties.
The third big issue is the issue of reclamation. Reclamation is when you start taking part of the sea back and you make it part of the land. For example, in Coega, when you erect all those buildings there, that will be reclamation. If you have been to Dubai, you will see there are islands there that they are building in the sea and they are engaging in all kinds of funny activities on those islands. That is reclamation.
There was no proper procedure in the legislation to deal with that and we have now created that procedure. We have also clearly distinguished between reclamation when it is to do with the state, a parastatal or an organ of state, and when it is private. We have set out very clearly what the role of the executive will be, and what the role of Parliament will be.
If any of you follow these reclamations, you will know that they're a den of iniquity, corruption and bribery anywhere in the world. So, we have made sure that we have created transparent and open processes that Parliament can particularly be part of when there is private reclamation. Those procedures are set out very clearly in the Act.
There are three other issues that weren't in the Act, which you can read in the resolutions. I do not have the time for that.
The Minister has already dealt with the Protected Areas Amendment Bill, the last Bill. As you know, under the previous administration the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Department of Tourism were all under one department. The new administration removed the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Department of Tourism from the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs, and the legislation in the Marine Living Resources Act dealt with those matters. However, in terms of a proclamation of the President, the environmental issues were dealt with by the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.
The Ministers are now passing a piece of legislation to deal with their aspects. This legislation will deal with those aspects that the President gave to our department in the proclamation and the legislation will now take marine protected areas and place them under the whole protected areas regime for which we have legislation. That is the long and the short of it. The Minister will retain her usual powers of determining protected areas and what can be done in those areas, etc. Those aspects have not been amended.
I once again thank everyone who has worked very hard in trying to get all these matters before Parliament. I hope that we will get the protected areas voted on soon and that the South African Weather Service Amendment Bill will also be brought back so that we can finalise that Bill before rising. I thank you so much. [Applause.]