.

Durban - There are 452 outstanding development projects, valued at R1.7 trillion, in KwaZulu-Natal still waiting for the necessary environmental impact assessment (EIA) approval, Economic Development MEC Mike Mabuyakhulu said on Thursday.

While the majority of EIA applications were now being handled on time, the provincial government was “very clear” about its decision to streamline the application processes and address delays and backlogs, he said.

Speaking to some 300 captains of industry at the annual top executive business summit of the KZN Growth Coalition - a joint public-private forum - in uMhlanga, Mabuyakhulu, who is also MEC for Tourism and Environmental Affairs, said it had been found that the delays were not necessarily the fault of officials.

It was more a case of them having to wait for responses from project promoters.

“We therefore seek the co-operation of project promoters to ensure that responsible and sustainable development is not hampered by mindless and costly delays.”

Premier Senzo Mchunu, co-chairman of the coalition, also spoke of the “huge potential” of capital projects in Durban that needed unlocking.

At a later press conference, he said these included the possibility of relocating Virginia Airport; linking the Bluff to the Point by a bridge and development at the old Natal Command site on the beachfront.

Asked if that involved the proposed movie studio, the premier said various options were being proposed, including ”others proposed by the private sector”.

A fresh look at the Point Waterfront development was also on the cards.

“People who have looked at it have quite a few options. Some are looking at the canals; some are looking at huge development to make it vibrant… to make it better… far better than Cape Town.”

Such developments would make Durban more vibrant and interesting, he said.

“The face of Durban is changing. We (the KZN government) need to have discussions with the leadership. I have indicated to the mayor that it is time for discussions.”

Businessman Moses Tembe, the other co-chairman of the coalition, said the province had various organisations, structures and initiatives to accelerate the social economic agenda, and what was needed now was the successful implementation of the strategies through close co-operation between business and government, labour and civil society.

“In our practical liaison with government, we have identified a number of critical challenges and opportunities that needed to be attended to,” he said.

This included the removal of Act 70 of 1970, administered by the national Department of Agriculture, which he said was the main stumbling block for any greenfield development in the province.

“’There are six major commercial and industrial parks planned that have been stalled for years as a result of this act,” Tembe said.

“All processes need to be tied to time frames… A process that gets completed in three months in Dubai, takes two years (at least) in our country.

“The opportunity costs are colossal beyond words,” Tembe said. “Delays in implementation of our glossy and well thought out plans are costing the country dearly.”

While Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment and affirmative action could not be overstated, education, skills development and training were the key to long lasting prosperity.

“Believe me - and a few other optimists - when we say KZN will rise above all challenges and is poised for unprecedented growth and prosperity, and will achieve a target of 5 percent GDP by 2020.”

“This province will rise if it continues to ensure that the right pro-growth political institutions are in place, and will fail spectacularly if it allows so-called ‘powerful people’ - both in public and private sector - to grab control over government, undermining broader social progress for their own greed,” said Tembe.

l Meanwhile, the DA has warned the MEC that the plan for a Drakensberg cable car was becoming more farcical by the day and was doomed to fail.

“The involvement of the Ithala Development Bank as announced recently raised another red flag. The KZN portfolio committee for tourism has not yet met to discuss this project. To be informed by the media that Ithala is taking over the reins of this project is frankly insulting to the newly-elected legislature,” saida Ann McDonnell, DA KZN spokeswoman for economic development, tourism and environmental affairs.

Daily News