The integration of biodiversity in local land-use planning: Gert Sibande District Municipality, South Africa.
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Twenty-five years after the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), much emphasis has been placed on the integration of biodiversity priorities and concerns into the development sectors. South Africa has made substantial progress in this regard. The understanding of threats to biodiversity, ecosystem services, sustainable development, and the link between ecosystem services and human well-being, in high levels of government, were fundamental factors in mainstreaming biodiversity in South Africa. The change in government and democratisation in 1994 has also facilitated the positive outcomes for integrating biodiversity into development. It has become a mandate for local government to address the socio-economic development needs of communities. Within the local land-use planning arena, the Integrated Development Plan (IDP) has been used as a comprehensive tool for guiding local development objectives. However, the promulgation of the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act (Act 16 of 2013) has elevated the status of the Spatial Development Framework (SDF) to guide other municipal plans. It has been suggested that integrating biodiversity priorities and conservation plans into comprehensive planning tools, such as the SDF, yields greater opportunity for biodiversity conservation to be prioritised in development planning and implementation. In contrast, the consideration of biodiversity priorities and conservation plans by local land-use planners during reactive post-hoc decision-making processes yields the least potential for biodiversity conservation. The main objective of this study was to assess the ability of local government to incorporate the principles of biodiversity conservation plans into their SDFs, and the implementation of these plans during their daily land use planning processes. I assess both suggestions in chapter 2 and chapter 3 of this thesis respectively. In chapter 2, I assess the review schedules, and the text making up the SDFs, and the integration of conservation plans into the Gert Sibande local municipalities SDFs, using geographic information systems (GIS) techniques. Biodiversity priorities were considered in the SDFs, and biodiversity conservation maps were integrated in the SDF. However, much of this integration can be credited to the outsourced service providers (consultants) who assist municipalities to develop the SDFs, as opposed to the land-use planners within government themselves. In chapter 3, I conducted interviews with the local municipality land-use planners, in order to gain insight into the extent to which they consider biodiversity priorities, and their use of conservation plans, during daily implementation/compliance processes. The consideration of biodiversity priorities, and the use of biodiversity conservation products, was largely inadequate during daily compliance processes. Another key finding was that there were still human capacity and financial constraints at the local level that prevented the proper and effective functioning of municipal government. Increased competency, and awareness about the importance of integrating biodiversity into local land-use planning, must be raised at local government, especially amongst local land-use planners. The findings of this study have implications for local level biodiversity conservation. A better understanding of the barriers to mainstreaming biodiversity into land-use planning is required by both land-use planners and conservation planners. Resolving these barriers could prevent biodiversity loss and improve biodiversity mainstreaming. At a broader scale, the insufficient use of conservation planning products in local government can have a major impact on efforts to achieve sustainable development goals, and the CBD objectives.