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Blue flag won’t fly at Durban beaches

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 25 April 2010

A defiant eThekwini City Manager, Mike Sutcliffe, remains adamant that Blue Flags are not the way to go for Durban’s beaches.

He says the Blue Flag system, which tourism leaders in the province endorse, is found on relatively few beaches in few countries and does not apply to the major tourism destinations and economies of the world.

His defiant stand comes in the wake of a ruling by Mike Mabuyakhulu, MEC for Economic Development and Tourism, that all KZN municipalities with beaches will be compelled to join the internationally approved grading system for bathing beaches.

Sutcliffe’s latest spurning of Blue Flag status has raised the ire of hoteliers, who have welcomed Mabuyakhulu’s support for Durban beaches to fall in line with other KZN municipalities.

Asked what the city was doing to comply with Mabuyakhulu’s directive, Sutcliffe said he was still waiting to hear from the province.

“Few of the beaches in KZN would be able to comply with Blue Flag in the next 10 years; so it is unlikely the MEC’s approach will end up being the European one,” he said.
Mabuyakhulu said during his department’s R1.6 billion budget vote recently that foreign tourists used the Blue Flag system when deciding on their holiday destination. Reinstituting the system would boost tourism revenue.

Department spokesman Bheko Madlala reacted cautiously to Sutcliffe’s comments, saying that once the new Blue Flag policy had been finalised, stakeholders would be consulted. “If there are objections, that will be the time and the platform to address them,” he said.

Four major Durban beaches lost their Blue Flag status in 2008, reportedly as a result of poor water and sand quality, and sub-standard amenities.

At the time, Sutcliffe, citing “extensive” international research, claimed certain bacteria, whose concentration was examined to determine whether Blue Flag status was justified, survived longer in the warm Indian Ocean off KZN beaches than they did in the cooler waters off Cape Town, where the Blue Flag flies proud. He instituted a different model for assessing water quality, managed by the CSIR.

Local players in the tourism industry were delighted that the MEC had put beaches firmly back on the provincial agenda.

“We desperately need to reclaim our Blue Flag status,” said Mike Jackson, who chairs the Beachfront Tourism Committee, an affiliate of KZN Tourism and is general manager of the Southern Sun Elangeni Hotel on Durban’s Golden Mile.

Warren Ozard, operational manager for the Federated Hospitality Association of SA, said the body had always supported the Blue Flag initiative.

“The statement by Sutcliffe that it will take 10 years is evasive,” he said.

“He has his own ideas about things, and a very thick skin that helps him ward off all his critics. For the betterment of Durban, the Blue Flag must fly again.”

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