File photo: Tourists will be able to take the car from the proposed base station in the Mnweni valley, west of Bergville, to the summit station on Mount Amery in the Royal Natal National Park.

Durban - Durban is set to host a conference and exhibition on cable cars which KwaZulu-Natal's economic development, tourism and environmental affairs MEC Mike Mabuyakhulu hopes will provide the answers to building a cable car in the Drakensberg mountains.

The conference, announced on Tuesday, is expected to be held next month over three days from April 3 to April 5.

“Through the conference, we hope to gain a better understanding of all the issues that can influence the development of the cable car and the best model to be utilised in development, management and operation of this project, in the context of our own environment,” Mabuyakhulu is quoted as saying.

The conference is the latest announcement on the project that Mabayakhulu has backed despite criticism over the fact that it is in a world heritage site and would cost an estimated R500-million.

A planned trip abroad by a delegation of the department to visit various cable car sites was panned by opposition parties who claimed that the information the department sought could simply be obtained by going onto the Internet or emailing other cable car operators.

In 2014 the provincial government commissioned a study which found that a cable car would be feasible and could draw about 300 000 tourists to the area.

According to the statement, the most ideal site for the cable car is at Mount Amery, south of the Royal Natal National Park in the Drakensberg Mountains. It is located on land owned by the Ingonyama Trust and outside the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg World heritage Site.

“The benefits of the project will not only be derived from the fact that it would offer another iconic tourism facility in the province, but in that it will catalyse the economy of the Drakensberg and beyond, and create an economic domino effect throughout the province,” Mabuyakhulu said.

“In pursuing this project, we are already working with the government of the Kingdom of Lesotho to explore what we can do to ensure that this project becomes a game changer.”

The statement further claimed that the province had initiated a full environmental impact (EIA) assessment and Unesco (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) had been notified of the project so that “the global organisation's criteria on EIAs could be taken into consideration”.

It is not known how many delegates had responded to invitations to attend the conference ( African News Agency (ANA)