Western Cape government argues for dropping of environmental commissioner post
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Cape Town - The provincial department of environmental affairs and development planning has said the post of environmental commissioner in the provincial constitution is no longer desirable and should be dropped.
In a presentation to the standing committee on the premier and constitutional matters which held a public hearing on the Constitution of the Western Cape First Amendment Bill, the department’s chief director Ayub Mohamed argued the post was a duplication of roles and responsibilities.
“The post is undesirable because it will consume scarce state resources and will not address gaps in governance and in any case national and provincial legislation already provide adequately for the protection of the environment.
“Also the post would not be a decision-making body regarding environmental authorisations, nor would it be an appeal body and so potential public recourse options for the environmental commissioner would be limited as there is no remedial provision other than to investigate complaints in respect of environmental administration.”
Among the duties of the commissioner, as envisioned by the provincial constitution, are monitoring urban and rural developments which may impact on the environment; investigating complaints in respect of environmental administration and recommending a course of conduct to any provincial organ of state or municipality whose activities have been investigated.
When the standing committee began its public hearings on the constitutional amendments earlier in May, committee chairperson Ricardo Mackenzie (DA) said: “Current provincial legislation is, however, nearly 23 years old and in our efforts to address environmental concerns, we believe that hearing from residents is critical.
Committee member Cameron Dugmore (ANC) said: “A selling point of our province is its biodiversity. What better way than appointing an environmental commissioner whose office is focused on building climate change resilience and sustainable development?”
The purpose of the amendment bill is to amend the 1997 constitution of the province to align it with the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa.
Other issues up for discussion include an amendment to do with the provisions of the calling and setting of dates for an election of the provincial parliament and provincial intervention in local government.