|dc.description.abstract||Formally established protected areas in South Africa date back to the turn of the 19th century,
yet requirements for protected area management plans only became mandatory approximately
a century later. Before the promulgation of the Environment Conservation Act No. 73 of 1989
and subsequently the World Heritage Convention Act in 1999 and the National Environmental
Management: Protected Areas Act 57 in 2003, requirements for management plans were
voluntary, and guidance to its content was fragmented across various international, national
and provincial policy instruments. There has been little academic debate on the relevance and
content of protected area management plans to date and how such a long-term planning
document can respond to emerging threats and opportunities. An improved understanding of
these plans, and the role they play in biodiversity conservation, is required.
The aims of this investigation were two-fold. The first was to gain insight into the
challenges of effective management of protected areas, the long-term protection and
sustainability of these areas, and, notably, the management plan’s role in addressing these
challenges. The second was to evaluate the contribution and legislative weight that the
management plan has in the efficient management, sustainable and ethical use, and long-term
sustainability of protected areas within South Africa.
Given that the above aims cover a potential insatiable field of research, this thesis was
focused on the legal and policy framework for management plans and the management plans
role in effectively managing these areas. Within this context, the following questions were
▪ What is the role of management plans in the effective management of protected
▪ How does the legal and policy framework ensure that the derived plan is relevant and
achievable and ultimately accomplishes the protected area purpose?
▪ What decision-making principles should be considered to facilitate sustainable and
ethical use of protected areas, and what role does protected area management plans
play in ensuring justifiable use of protected areas?
▪ What are the consequences when a long-term public-interest decision potentially
isolates it from its transfrontier context, and what is the legislative weight of the
management plan in mitigating such consequences?
▪ What role does the management plan, a long-term planning document, play in
mitigating the impacts of or responding to immediate emerging threats and
It was found that despite being the principal legislative framework for management
plans, the World Heritage Convention Act and the National Environmental Management:
Protected Areas Act did not consolidate the plethora of management plan requirements for
protected areas. As a consequence, the legislative provisions for protected area management
plans were, in several instances, fragmented, conflicting and ambiguous. A consolidation of
relevant provisions in these two statutes together with emerging best practice is, therefore,
recommended. This consolidation may also provide greater clarity on the contemporary
understanding of the contribution of protected areas to conservation and people’s well-being,
i.e. it may entail a refurbishment of the ‘purpose’ of protected areas.
Furthermore, the parallel evolution of the management of protected areas, the
recreational use of these areas, and protected area management plans over the last century have
brought about a complex relationship between these three aspects. Because of the
fragmentation of legal and policy frameworks relating to these aspects, a need for a
consolidated decision-making framework that provides for the basis for ethical and transparent
decision-making could exclude inconsistent interpretations of legislation and policies.
Incorporating such a decision-making framework in the protected area management plan can enhance transparency and accountability by the State or management authority to fulfil its
Understanding of the above aspects was enhanced through a literature review and a case
study of a development application in the area bordering the Tembe Elephant Park. The case
study highlighted some of the potential consequences of a long-term public-interest decision
that isolates a protected area from its transfrontier context and the role of an adaptive
management plan in responding to these impacts and other current emerging threats and
A robust management plan remains the most relevant planning tool to address the
complexities around protected area management and the fragmented legislative and policy
frameworks for the effective management of protected areas in South Africa. Whereas
management plans cannot be expected to cover explicitly every emerging circumstance – the
principles included in such plans should provide the necessary guidance to decision-makers for
unique circumstances and decision making.||en_US