Blueberry blues

Daniella Alexander, Wellington

In response to an article “Wellington selected for blueberry development” (Bolander, February 28):

The Indigo Berries – United Exports blueberry farming operation in Wellington is certainly going to threaten the “Bolander Lifestyle” and has led to much uncertainty and unhappiness in Wellington over the last year, especially from neighbouring farms and Wellington residents.

This massive development, which already has some 40Ha under unsightly netting, has already destroyed the aesthetics across the entire historic Perdeskoen in Wellington and can be seen from far and wide.

Large tracks are also being prepared for further development, with little transparency.

Small-scale tourism developments and agricultural production are being augmented by a disturbing new trend of industrial scale operations, which are at odds with the tranquil, over-arching agricultural and rural qualities characterising the area. The Blouvlei is one of nineteen heritage protection overlay zones within the Drakenstein municipal area. These are areas specifically recognised for their outstanding aesthetic landscape characteristics.

Forever gone is the beautiful vista of natural green grapes or fruit tree orchards, forever replaced by artificial and unsightly netting on such a scale as to remove Wellington from the Cape Winelands portfolio.

How this has been allowed to happen without intervention from Heritage Western Cape is unclear.

The impact on the Spruit Rivier water basin and downstream users is also not mentioned in a cleverly written article for the developers – who, of course, live on other continents, nowhere near the destruction.

The article emphasises the scale of the investment and the large job creation impact of a purported 650 temporary people at peak times. The number of people alone seems doubtful to anyone with a farming background, and appears to have been annualised for impact.

No mention is made of the current unemployed farm worker tenants and their involvement, if any. Surely a project of this scale should have been subject to a detailed environmental impact assessment given the potential scale and impact on the whole region, and certainly not the flippant “we are not at liberty to discuss future plans or developments’ when questioned”.

With several court battles brewing around this very issue in the Western Cape this article seems to be early PR from Indigo Berries with the usual “job creation and economic investment” dangling carrot.