Controversial development work at the Cape Town Film Studios at Faure that a consultant ecologist says has damaged critically important wetlands. - Photo: DR LIZ DAY

Cape Town - Officials of the national Water Affairs Department and provincial Environmental Affairs Department are inspecting development at the Cape Town Film Studios at Faure, after receiving a complaint about damage to critically important wetlands on the site.

An official complaint was made to both departments by freshwater ecologist Liz Day, who had been called in by the film studio company as a specialist consultant.

But company chief executive Nico Dekker has dismissed her complaint, calling it “a storm in a teacup” and saying her comments should have come to him first.

He insisted that all work was taking place within the approved development boundary and argued that Day had misread the co-ordinates on the approved site development plan demarcating conservation areas - a claim she strongly denies.

However, Dekker confirmed to the Cape Argus there had been two “slight transgressions”, saying clearing work had encroached into the conservation buffer zone “a couple of metres” in one place and “a push of about 10m” in another.

“We are fixing it… I’ve actually employed a consultant, the best, because I want to do the right thing. We’re not developers, we’re trying to create a most precious asset for the country and the province.”

Dekker also conceded that two of the conditions of approval for the development - the establishment of an environmental monitoring committee, and the physical demarcation of sensitive sites identified by specialists during the initial environmental impact assessment - had not been met.

He said they were busy fencing the sensitive sites and he was talking to CapeNature and the provincial authorities about establishing the committee.

The studios have been operating since before the official opening in October 2010.

Day was so concerned by what she found during a site visit on October 30 that she lodged an official “Report on unauthorised activities/developments which may have a detrimental effect on the environment or non-compliance with Nema [environmental legislation] general duty of care” with the provincial environment authorities.

She also wrote to the national Water Affairs Department asking it to investigate, saying: “These wetlands are critically important and their current condition and treatment does not suggest that this is the case, or that the developer of the site has an appreciation for the importance of meeting the development’s conditions of authorisation.”

The development of the film studios in the sensitive Cape Flats dune-and-wetland area was controversially authorised on appeal in April 2006 by then environment MEC Tasneem Essop, after being fast-tracked by her department but opposed by CapeNature.

The project had been personally pushed by Ebrahim Rasool, first as finance MEC and later as premier.

Officials from the two departments were to have inspected the site yesterday, but this had not been confirmed at the time of going to press.

[email protected]

Cape Argus