The Polkadraai Hills, recklessly disfigured with hectares of plastic hothouses

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Plasticultures in touristic hotspots of Stellenbosch:
See pictures below
(click on pics to enlarge!)

<click> to enlarge: Plasticulture in stunning setting along Anandale Road Annandale:
<click> to enlarge:  Plasticulture in pristine Jonkershoek ValleyJonkershoek
100 ha of Plasticulture along the R44 in StellenboschHelderberg
The newest Plasticulture in the picturesque Polkadraai HillsPolkadraai
Plasticulture in Stellenbosch Kloof, conspicously positionned right in the heart of the winelandStb Kloof

and this is how it could look like, if we further allow free development: Almeria (Spain)Plasticulture cover 20'000 ha in Campo de Dalias, a low lying cape near Almeria, Spain

More News on the Plasticultures

PLASTICULTURE - the future of Stellenbosch?

Plastic covered agro-industrial cultures are popping up in Stellenbosch like mushrooms after a good rain, despite the dire consequences for environment and landscape, the latest being the unembarrassed hothouse development over several hectares in the middle of the picturesque Polkadraai Hills (see pictures) We strongly object to the mutilation of Stellenbosch with plasticultures, and we call upon all concerned citizens and the Municipality to help stop this development!

In fact, all these hothouses are built without any authorisation. Unapologetically, the developers profit from legislative and executive weakness of the responsible authorities, to the detriment of the neighbouring wine and hospitality businesses. All these structures have been put up in defiance of existing regulations, such as the need for building permits, the respect of building lines and the assessment of their impact on landscape, nature and social environment, as stipulated by law.

We are sincerely concerned about the uncontrolled expansion of such industrial-type farming activities with the use of plastic covers all over the most beautiful places of the Stellenbosch Winelands. It is obvious, that they are a severe form of aesthetic pollution, modifying the whole characteristic of the Stellenbosch landscape, apart from the harmful impacts on nature, the water cycle, soil, fauna and flora.

The authorities are apparently not aware of the ruinous effect of this development on Stellenbosch as a prime tourist location, as laws are not enforced in this regard. We understand that the hothouse agro-industry needs space for their business, but they could be accommodated in less sensitive areas. It doesn’t make sense to allow uncontrolled growth of the one industry at the expense of the rest of the community, destroying values and jobs in existing businesses.

After all, the splendour and integrity of the Stellenbosch Winelands is our biggest asset. Tourism-related activities in Stellenbosch play a vital role in the local economy and contribute up to 49% to the gross regional domestic product – and visitors do not come to Stellenbosch to see Plasticultures!

We are surprised about the lack of regulation. There is this erroneous believe that any type of farming activities are allowed in agricultural zones. This might have been appropriate in the old days, when nature was still the base of agriculture and exploitation naturally limited. But times have changed! Many farming ventures have perverted into pure industrial businesses and need to be regulated as such.

We urge the Stellenbosch Municipality to adopt a better policy
regarding plasticultures. Such agro-industrial developments must be obliged to formal planning application procedures including environmental impact assessments, as stipulated by environmental laws and the Heritage Resources Act. And we expect the Municipality to enforce the law as intended!

What is your opinion?
This is an issue of great importance for Stellenbosch and the entire Winelands, and you are gladly invited to join the discussion. Please pass this link on to everybody for commenting; any contribution is welcome. We are looking forward to the response of Stellenbosch!

The Polkadraai Hills Association

If you would like to support our efforts to protect our pristine Winelands, join us and sign up as member of the Polkadraai Hills Association ---> Membership Application Form   (No costs involved)

COMMENTS:         leave here your own comment!

1.5.2012: Do not let destroy the beautiful landscape of the Polkadraai Hills with these ugly hothouses. In future, it will be a disaster for the environment - M.M.M. Timmers

20.4.2012: Dit oog-seer en destruktiewe bydrae tot ons pragtige omgewing - Fred

18.4.2012: This is such short term thinking! How unpleasing to the environment. Utterly disgusting! - Xan

12.3.2011: We have visited ZA for holidays and business 10 times during the last years, love the country and the people. As tourists we can not understand the industrial destroying of the lovely landscape. During our last visit we saw a lot of positive aspects but these plastic hills are terrible !From our perspective the Municipality is in charge to protect the advantages ZA still has. - Michael

26.1.2011: Jacques, you are insulting when you say " allow others to make a living for themselves and give food for their families". This farmer is making more than a living for ages already and the plastic canopies do not create jobs. We are neither selfish, as you say, nor are we stupid!! It is simple GREED and shows 0% of environmental thinking. This is not acceptable in our days and times. The way building permits are bypassed in Stellenbosch, and a municipality that turns a blind eye to it, does make one wonder if we are really in the 21th century. It is not only for the tourism that we should watch out, but for a healthy eco-system in our neighbourhood. Stellenbosch is worldwide known for its beauty, for the unique landscape, the slopes with its vineyards, for unspoilt nature. Why is Stellenbosch still thriving on tourism, while other areas feel the impact of a decline of tourism? This could change quickly and there will be no turning the clock back. Let us stop this destruction of a World Heritage Site. - Barbara

17.1.2011: Most people are probably not aware that there are wines now being produced in South Africa that rival very good wines from other countries that have a long-standing reputation for quality wine. If we study the importance of those areas like Napa Valley and Bordeaux we find that there is no way the citizens of those countries would allow such a thing to happen to the natural beauty and tourism draw these places are. We must recognize the assets we have and build on them in order to create more and better jobs! These last few years have been very tough on the wine business and a little help in terms of legal, planned growth as opposed to anarchy would be helpful and beneficial to all concerned except those who wish to drive land values down for easy exploitation. - Rusty

16.1.2011: What a huge eyesore these plastic tunnels are and so completely out of place on this road to Stellenbosch. We have a country that seems to thrive on plastic with no thought to what this is doing to the environment. I thought thinking farmers were becoming more aware of what they are doing to the planet, not less. Wake up please!! Beryl Eichenberger

5.10.2010: For a country, and in particular the Western Cape region of the winelands that prides itself on the sustainable viticulture and biodiversity angles, this is truly an anathema. The SA wine industry is the world leader in sustainable production examples and legislation. Other countries and institutions have followed suite using our legislation as an example, including the OIV. The Western Cape is classified as a world heritage site - no mean feat. Should all these initiatives that are just starting to reap the benefits of years of input, strategic planning, reflection and commitment be undermined by this sort of reckless disregard for the greater picture, the long term benefits will be dashed. The international community will dismiss the sustainable wines endeavour as lacking rigour with regards to the ambient activities. What about the environmental impacts? This goes beyond simple aesthetics and beauty of the landscape. It's an ethical, strategic and economic issue. -  Allison Bonnett, from UK

4.10.2010: I agree with the sentiment that tunnel farming can be done on any land and not prime vineyard and aesthetic land. Jacques, I am afraid you have been rightly lambasted because your value systems are skewed. That or you are a plastic salesman! These strawberry farmers have been in Stellenbosch a long time and have obviously learnt to manipulate the system to their advantage (greed is a word that comes to mind ). - Joe, SA

30.9.2010: Jacques, Go wrap your head in a plastic bag. Feel what it feels like after a few minutes. Worse, go look in the mirror what it looks like. Go figure. - Etienne, Stellenbosch

29.9.2010: Dear Jacques, please stop being an ostrich and remove your head from the sand. The bigger picture is that the tourism industry is supplying x times more jobs than plastic tunnels. The beauty of the Winelands is what keeps on pulling the tourists. If these developments keep on continuing unchecked, this could look like in Spain. See the pictures beside. This not only destroys the tourism potential but also the total environment. You know strawberry tunnels do not need prime vineyard land, they can be grown anywhere in a tunnel! I cannot believe this is your thinking, or are you in the pocket of this farmer? - Emil, Stellenbosch

29.9.2010: Development at any price is a policy of bygone days, when sustainability was not an issue yet! Wake up, Jacques, and open your eyes! - Ingrid, Stellenbosch

29.9.2010: Hi Jacques, You make a good point. If the world you want for our children is not to include the 350 year old culture of the winelands. If we want a "professional" looking landscape. Does that improve on God's creation? If we believe that strawberries and our food in general is to come from chemicals?!
I am concerned about the water, the air, and the birds, not to mention the next generation. Water and food quality will be a great factor in the future of South Africa and the world. Destroying our views of nature and infringing on the rights of others by ruining their land values is not real freedom. There may be a need for "plasticulture" but does it have to be in a place so rich in history and culture and beauty? Should it threaten one of the country's biggest tourist draws? We don't find these things in the winelands of any other wine producing country, so why here? - Rusty Myers, Stellenbosch

28.9.2010: I live close by and see the people at work. Jacques, I can tell you that the (large) hothouses do not create jobs. It is the conventional strawberry beds with the low covers that are more work intensive. So if this strawberry farmer cares about jobs, let them move the big ones and replace them with the open beds. Problem solved!  - Annemarie, Stellenbosch

25.9.2010: Jacques, it is moral courage, not selfishness, when residents take a stand against an unscrupulous farmer to protect the integrity of their environment and livelihood. Selfishness is, when one single farmer family disturb with their activities the beauty and prosperity of an entire area, riding roughshod over laws and regulations just to rake in money. - Luca, Stellenbosch

24.9.2010: The land is there to be developed!! Have you seen the amount of Jobs the Zetlers create? Stop being so selfish and allow others to make a living for themselves and give food for their families. The Zetlers are doing a great job for the community and besides...the "plastic canopies" looks professional. - Jacques, Stellenbosch

14.9.2010: Eyesores such as these are the thin end of the wedge and the authorities must uphold the law. We love the Cape Winelands for their beauty, their produce and their nature respecting people. Please don't destroy them for those who live and work in them, or for those who treasure their visits to them. - Richard Stovin-Bradford, London

1.9.2010: As a tour operator, I am really disappointed about this nonsense and about the lack of regulation. - Philippe Caussanel

31.8.2010: As a frequent visitor to Cape Town and Stellenbosch I can but endorse the opponents of this outrageous defacing of a beautiful landscape. It is the best tourism natural resource you have and people like me come again and again to enjoy it. Quite apart from the offence to natural beauty you might think about the impact on your economy, if, as it seems, local planning laxity is preferred to the much bigger picture of your national tourism income. A very short term and ill-advised decision in my view and much to be regretted. May I hope that, when I visit in December, this aberration will have been reversed? Probably not because of local, tunnel-visioned vested interest. Please pleasantly surprise me as I drive from the airport. I will be looking!! - Clive McCombie, UK

31.8.2010: I also strongly object to what the Zetler's are doing on their strawberry farms in the Winelands - they are defacing this beautiful area with plastic sheeting (mauve in some places) and it is hard to believe that they can't see what an eyesore it is. Not sure how all this plastic, heated by the sun affects the strawberries and ultimately our health. Please do everything in your power to stop these people ruining our beautiful Cape Winelands. Perhaps boycotting their strawberries will motivate them to remove this appalling blight on our landscape. - Sandy, Somerset West

31.8.2010: What a silly idea to cover the beautiful views with plastic. Don't we ever learn that our country side is there not only for us to enjoy and protect but also for those who follow; Greed, Greed and selfishness - Reg Denby

30.8.2010: Tourists do not like to see plastic. They prefer nature and vineyards. - Dieter Gugelmann, wine importer, Switzerland

26.8.2010: I can't believe that whatever this strawberry farmer wants to achieve cannot be achieved in a more acceptable fashion. People at war have used camouflage of some kind or other for centuries. We are not quite at war here (yet!!!) but it can't be rocket science for this or any other farmer to produce their goods without becoming a blot on one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world - Jeff, UK

25.8.2010: It's a real pity to destroy such a beautiful landscape with plastic. It's only thinking on short term (take the money and run). When it's too late, tourists can go to Canada, or New Zeeland for other beautiful landscapes. - Patrick, Wine importer, Belgium

25.8.2010: I read the article about the plastic eyesore. I no longer live in the Cape, but I have always loved trips into the Winelands of the Cape. Farms are not normally a thing of beauty, but wine farms are. Whilst you are at it, can you try to get some of the architectural disasters under the spot-light? - Andrew C

23.8.2010: Visiting Stellenbosch is visiting a painting. Putting plastic in it will destroy it's beauty - Philippe from Belgium

20.8.2010: Ek dink dit doen niks goed vir die omgewing nie en lyk baie sleg. Hoop hulle sal iets daaraan kan doen.Doen weg met al die plastiek, dit onsuur die omgewing. Die heuwels lyk sleg met al die tonnels. Hoekom laat hulle dit toe? - Suzette Louw

12.7.2010: I cannot believe that the Stellenbosch Municipality has permitted and supported the development and expansion of this industrial farming. What a disgrace, how irresponsible and ignorant - how could you ruin such a unique and stunning region? These developments do not belong into the South African wine regions - they are an environmental, energy and ecosystem disaster. What an irrational and destructive solution. Such industrial monstrosities will only ruin the environment, deplete the water table, destroy fauna and flora, Stellenbosch wine region. We often travel to SA wine regions but I can tell you that we will swerve and give SA a miss if this madness proliferates wine regions. And so too will other wine tourists from other countries. I do hope that all people within the wine industry rally together and put an end to this lunacy - what an enormous threat to the sustainability of the wine industry and wine tourism. - Marc of Australia

8.7.2010: Pas mooi in by die berg (vullishoop) wat die munisipaliteit by devonvalley oprig! Experts in killing the goose that lay the golden eggs ! - Jasper Raats

5.7.2010: I couldn't agree more and for a change an issue of considerable importance has been taken up by the wine industry. It seems hugely unfair that one has to go through an exhaustive approval process to build a little winery, while hectares of land are transformed overnight into an industrial park without much consideration - David Trafford

5.7.2010: With primary wine industry producers in the financial doldrums, who in this industry is able to live-up to the Hollywood-style hype and glitter of the Cape Winelands posters?: Only the wine trade and the tourism industry - PH Spies

5.7.2010: I strongly oppose to the use of plastic tunnels in our beautiful town and am so tired of 1 family ruining the view for all the others and the 1000's of tourists who visit. I am happy to help in anyway I can and urge the municipality to take action. I foolishly saw the construction at polka draai and thought it was a lake! The entrance to Stellenbosch via the Annandale road has been destroyed. Enough is enough - Cara Boonzaier

5.7.2010: I strongly object to the mutilation of Stellenbosch with plasticultures - Bruno Rosa

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