The environmental politics of the proposed small craft harbour, Durban : a discourse analysis approach.
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Waterfront development has become a global phenomenon, identified by cities as an opportunity for urban renewal through the creation of a revitalised land-water interface and its associated economic benefits for the city at large. The Durban Point Development Company (DPDC) a Public-Private Partnership, recognised the potential for renewal of the Point Precinct in Durban and initiated the Point Development Framework Plan to implement regeneration of this inner city area. The Small Craft Harbour (SCH) is one of the components of the project. It aims to stimulate further financial investment in the city through the generation of an internationally competitive marina facility. As a national legal requirement, the SCH development is required to undergo a Scoping exercise which is the initial phase of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process. During this phase the decision-making team is required to identify potentially detrimental environmental effects capture public comment and explore a number of viable options. It is therefore a crucial phase during which the issues and concerns are deliberated and the outcomes are used to generate a set of potential options for the site. However, the initial Scoping exercise was deemed inadequate in terms of meeting the broader objectives of the Point Development and as a result, was extended. This Extended Scoping Phase aimed to generate more suitable options and included an inc~eased network of specialists. The research focuses on the environmental politics of this particular phase of decision-making for the proposed SCH. A number of unique factors have contributed to an exceptionally conflictual and challenging decision-making process. Unlike other waterfront developments, Durban's SCH will be located adjacent to a prime piece of beach on Durban's Golden Mile. This introduces the complexities associated with the current user groups, namely a watersports fraternity as well as the general public. It is the unique location and the sheltered nature of the site which makes these activities possible. The proposals have thus been met with considerable resistance from these user groups whose current activities are threatened. For these reasons the social and ecological aspects of the project have been brought into stark focus and have been met with much resistance from the developers who have their own economic and financial imperatives. In the aim of applying discourse analysis as a framework to examine the environmental politics of the SCH decision-making process, the key actor, their respective discourses and the way in which they interacted was identified as well as the underlying power relations governing these (inter)actions. To provide the foundations for these objectives international theories relating to social order, governance, power and discourse were employed and their applicability to the South African development context was al 0 discussed. Castells (2000) networking logic Allen s (2003) conceptuali ations of power and Hajer and Wagenaar s (2003a) deliberative policy analysis formed the three core bodies of theory. The fourth was discourse analysis which functioned as a theory and as a methodology. Hajer s (1995 2003) approach to discour e analysis was employed to interpret the interactions between the different actors in the process using key concepts such as 'discourse coalitions and story-lines. Hajer's (1995 2003) 'argumentative approach' is also relevant as it allows for an evaluation of the continual repositioning of various individuals around certain issues through discour e. The key findings of the discour e analysis revealed that the decision-making around the SCH proposal was prone to the changing rules of the network and the subsequent shifting of the positions of the actors represented by the altered configuration of discourse coalitions. This reflects the fluid nature ofa network and the volatility of the power relations within. In response to this uncertainty, the actors adopted more deliberati e modes of engagement in line with Hajer and Wagenaar s (2003a) deliberative policy analysis and this facilitated collaboration amongst the team rather than resistance. Deliberation which is attuned to the continuous give and take in networks has thus proved successful in facilitating decision-making between conflicting interest groups. In South Africa where the overarching policy objective is democratic transformation the merits of deliberation become starkly apparent. Locally, by incorporating deliberative modes of operation into the policies and practice of the eThekwini Municipality Durban would benefit from the same levels of good governance practiced by some international policy communities. A discourse analysis of the Scoping Process of the proposed SCH has provided insight into the power relations and decision-making practices of the eThekwini Municipality as a whole serving to highlight the environmental politics which so often surrounds high-profile urban developments. International theories relating to effective governance have proved applicable to the South African developmental context and may serve to guide local and national decisionmaking processes.