Ricochet News

What am I doing?

By Elwyn Harlach-Jones - Apr 4, 2016
What am I doing?

This is the second volume in the `Whom am I` and `What am I doing` series?

The first Article briefly described my Professional consultancy work over the previous forty years in the Built Environment, which in recent years as seen a focussing on Heritage management in the form of environmental heritage Conservation Projects particularly Architectural building restoration.      

As a follow up to the first article, I thought it was appropriate to describe a Project which has been thrust into the public and involved my work as a Professional Heritage Consultant.

The Project I refer to is the Giant Flag Project now being planned and implemented outside the town of Graaff-Reinet.

This Project embodies all the ingredients of a `Green` Project and is a good example of a development which includes an intangible heritage component promoting natural heritage specifically related to landscape design and biodiversity planning principles.

It was conceptualised to add value to and strengthen the connections of the broader issues related to sustainability environmental and climatic change, as it will consist of millions of xerophyte plants, when collectively planted will map out the South African flag.

It will be large enough to be viewed from space when fully developed.

Briefly, the Project will consist of two million coloured dessert succulents plus a four megawatt solar field established on 66 hectares of municipal commonage ground on the outskirts of Graaff-Reinet in the Great Karoo, situated approximately four km on the South side of the town adjacent to the R63 road.

Below are photographs of the site


A built structure consisting of a Conference facility and SMME precinct is proposed to be situated within the precinct of the flag site (in the black triangle of the flag), and according to the Draft Business Plan, a commercial Space is also planned, as an adjunct to the abovementioned community Facilities.

The planning and developmental Investigations and Research undertaken to date have been financed by the Development Bank of South Africa, the Eastern Cape Development Corporation and Princess Irene of Holland, and the Business Plan proposes a Non-Profit Organization (NPO) to undertake the physical development.

My Appointment Brief and Scope of the Professional work was to prepare two separate Assessments for Phase 1 Heritage Impact Analyses (HIA’S) which investigated the effect on the on-site and surrounding heritage Resources of the proposed physical development (Site Development HIA), and the construction of a bulk water supply pipeline (Bulk water supply pipeline HIA) Pipe.

These HIA’s were required to be undertaken in terms of the National Heritage Resources Act, 1999 (Act No. 25 of 1999) (NHRA) and the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) and other local Bio- diversity Acts.

The focus of these HIA’s was to predict and assess the effects that any of the proposals of the physical development of the Site might have on the significance of heritage Resources. These Assessments were embodied in an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), which included a specialist Archaeological Impact Assessments (AIA), Paleontological Impact Assessments (PIA) and a Visual Impact Assessments

The HIA’ s which focussed on the Built Environment also included a  Socio- Economic (SEIA) and a Socio- Cultural (SCIA)Assessments.

The SCIA and SEIA were aimed directly at identifying existing intangible heritage Resources which meant engaging with living communities.

The conclusion was that as a result of indirect and induced employment the Project would be inclusive in nature and would mean an increased income for the Camdeboo Area, by the formation of small businesses and encouraging entrepreneurial development and preferential procurement processes.

The Methodology of compiling the two respective Heritage Impact Assessments involved processes which may be summarized as:

Identifying any heritage resources that occur in the area and on the Site.

Establishing the nature and degree of significance of the identified heritage resources.

Predicting and assessing the potential negativeand positiveimpacts of the proposed development or action on these heritage resources.

Suggesting any mitigation measures of how the predicted impacts could be mitigated, including appropriate management actions of these impacts.

Phase 1 included a submission of Need to Initiate a Development (NID)to the relevant Provincial Heritage

Resource Authority (PHRA) at the Initiation Stage; structural planning of the HIA Assessment,

Public participation Process, Site research, Scoping, significance Assessment, impact Evaluation and

recommended measures for Mitigation.

On completion the Report was submitted to the PHRA for approval.

On-Site Heritage Resources Identified;


Cattle dipping station                 


Old tank                                 


Kraal wall                                    

Ancestral burial area      




Old Airfield

Cognizance was taken that burial grounds are a sensitive cultural and religious issue in our contemporary society and its heritage value was found in the collective memory and emotional aspects attached to this resource, whilst the old Airfield was important for its contribution to the growth and development of the Town over the years.

The Recommendations concluded that good Heritage Management Practice required the effective protection of the heritage resources, and the skills and capacities of persons and communities involved in this conservation process should be developed to enable the Project to provide a sustainable social and economic upliftment to the local Community.

This would require the Project Development Programme to include for on-going education and training of the affected communities to take ownership of the heritage resources and instill a sense of custodianship.

Monitoring and inspection were to play an important part in the overall practice of heritage management during onsite construction of the Project to ensure compliance with the HIA mitigation Recommendations and Outcomes.

The Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) and consequent Environment Authorisation for the Project was approved by the Department of Environment affairs in terms of the National Environment Management Act (NEMA).

You can get in touch with him at 321 Candlewood Lane, Love more Park, Port Elizabeth, or by calling + 27 (0) 82 9320041 or via E-mail: [email protected].

Main image: An artist's impression of the Giant Flag project as viewed from space.