On the morning of 11 March 2016 our firm hosted a seminar on the topic of Invasive Alien Plants. We were honoured to have had outstanding experts in the environmental field as presenters. Our presenters included Elbi Bredenkamp, the director of Enviroworks, Louise Stafford, the Head of Green Jobs at the Environmental Resource Management Department of the City of Cape Town, Professor Johan Du Preez, the director of EnviroNiche Consulting and Livhuwani Nnzeru, an Environmental Officer at the Department of Environmental Affairs.
Invasive Alien Plants (IAPs) are widely considered as a major threat to biodiversity, human livelihoods and economic development. IAPs cost South Africa tens of billions of rands annually in lost agricultural productivity and resources spent on management.
Thus far, this information has not been made known sufficiently to estate agents, which may in part have contributed to many of them ignoring the new legislation. Knowledge of this legislation by all parties will hopefully help prevent non-compliance with the Act.
On 01 August 2014, the Minister of Environmental Affairs published the Alien and Invasive Species Regulations which came into effect on 1 October 2014. The Regulations were conceptualised in a bid to curb the negative effects of IAPs and other Alien Invasive Species (AISs). The Regulations call on land owners and sellers of land to assist the Department of Environmental Affairs to conserve our indigenous fauna and to foster sustainable use of our land. The Regulations identify a total of 559 alien species, including 383 plant species as invasive which are divided into four different categories.
According to Regulation 29(3) of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act 10 of 2004 (NEMBA), the seller of immovable property must, prior to the conclusion of the relevant sale agreement, notify the purchaser of that property in writing of the presence of listed invasive species on that property.
In practice, an estate agent can add value by guiding a seller in adhering to Regulation 29 of NEMBA. An estate agent should ask a seller of a property to declare in writing whether they are aware of any AISs on their land or if they hold a permit for species that require permits to be held. If, following an enquiry of an estate agent, it is established that AISs have been found on the land for sale, or that the seller holds a permit, then a copy of this confirmation must be handed to a prospective purchaser. The purchaser’s offer should include an acknowledgement by the purchaser that he has been advised of the invasive species on the property. Property sale agreements subsequent to 1 October 2014 should incorporate a clause in terms of which the purchaser acknowledges that he has acquainted himself as to the nature of the property he is purchasing, and that he accepts the property as such, including the vegetation present on the property. The declaration by the seller resulting from an inquiry of an estate agent could well assist in adhering to Regulation 29 and thus avoid the heavy punishment imposed by the Regulations.
This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE).