The Municipal Support Initiative (MSI): Supporting the development of resilient local government structures and function

The Municipal Support Initiative (MSI) is aimed at improved capacity within municipal governance structures in two municipalities that oversee critical biodiversity areas in the lower Olifants catchment (Ba-Phalaborwa and Maruleng). The MSI is designed as an institutional learning process that supports practitioners and council in various ways through workplace support, tools development with application, training and policy formulation, and implementation of communication and feedback systems.

The focus of the MSI is on key municipal mandates related to natural resources, namely land-use planning, local economic development, water conservation and demand management and waste-water management under climate change scenarios (including disaster and risk reduction strategies).

MSI Support for land-use planning (LUP) in two municipalities

Research by SANBI has indicated that 70% of biodiversity is located outside of national parks. This means that ALL municipalities have a central role to play in ensuring that spatial planning, firstly, recognises the value of biodiversity and then, secondly, affords critical biodiversity features special status in the spatial planning process so that they are not destroyed.

Thus the MSI strategically works to integrate biodiversity–compatible land-use planning into municipal spatial planning instruments. To this end, the MSI team works with Spatial Planning and Economic Directorates (SPED) in two local municipalities and one district municipality. We address the technical aspects of integrating critical biodiversity areas into the spatial planning instruments of the Spatial Development Framework (SDF) and Land Use Management Schemes (LUMS) by means of professional support, training and guidelines.

In order to achieve full institutionalisation, we work with the political/decision making aspects of local government so that these approaches are adopted. This is essential as the mandate for institutionalisation of any frameworks or protocols rests with council. This means that for biodiversity-compatible planning to progress in municipalities it needs to be tabled and adopted by formal processes. We seek to have biodiversity-compatible SDFs adopted as well as to influence by-laws that allow for spatial planners to act appropriately on land use applications.

Although this approach to critical biodiversity planning will go a long way to ensuring sensitive land use planning, it is not enough in the practical sense as land owners still have a large say in land use activities. To this end, we work with the largest land claimant in the Maruleng municipal area, the Moletele Communal Property Association (CPA). The main focus of this work is to develop the skills and capacity of a group of young people (under the Moletele Youth Programme) to understand the value of biodiversity and how to secure it through a proper zonation plan.

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