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They Paved Paradise

Joni Mitchell wrote Big Yellow Taxi in 1969, and it's more relevant today than ever. In her words:

"I wrote Big Yellow Taxi on my first trip to Hawaii. I took a taxi to the hotel and when I woke up the next morning, I threw back the curtains and saw these beautiful green mountains in the distance. Then, I looked down and there was a parking lot as far as the eye could see, and it broke my heart…this blight on paradise."


So anyway, they're tarring the road between Hole in the Wall and Coffee Bay at the moment, and I've been tempted several times to post about the swathe of destruction in its wake for the width of the road and it's graded and cambered 80km /hour specification. (Like, they're cutting 10m or more off the tops of the hills!)

In a tiny little coastal village like this, a sweet little cobblestone road would be far more appropriate, but I couldn't work up the energy to mount a futile protest against the inevitability of it. But when they started working in the village here in Hole in the Wall towards the end of last month, I knew I had to try and do something to prevent them from destroying the "sense of place" and natural beauty of the hillside overlooking Hole in the Wall itself. So I talked to the road crew and they pointed me to their supervisor.

That hillside was saved from development by DEDEAT (Dept. of Economic Development, Environment and Tourism) in 2006, when the new hotel development attempted to site themselves there. There was another development about 10 years ago that they stopped, too. And the investor who had fenced and started building without an EIA or any sort of permission was subsequently forced to remove all traces. He must have lost a lot of money.

Now, however, the spatial development initiative has received funding from national government to fast-track development in this area, so some civil servant has drawn a pen-line from A to B without any thought about environmental and ecological impact; or more to the point, any kind of aesthetic integrity.

A year ago, almost exactly, I mounted an attempt to get DEDEAT to assist with having this particular hillside (and it's counterpart on the other side of the river) demarcated as a no-go area for any development, to protect the environs for future generations to enjoy its unspoilt beauty. The kindly response I got was to the effect that I should try to engage with the community to do so, and they wished me luck. Unfortunately I work for a living, and haven't had the time or resources to undertake such a time-consuming mission. Now it's too late.

They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique
And a swinging hot spot

Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got til its gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot

Pretty much everyone will recognise this beautiful cover version by Counting Crows:


The road construction started on the hillside overlooking the Hole towards the end of August.

In the pictures right (or below on mobile) they had already lightly graded the track, and put up marker sticks.

People don't realise how that hillside is an integral part of the Hole in the Wall, and can be seen from so many other angles. A tar road and a turning circle, then what? Put up a parking lot? A small road wouldn't be so bad, but this is ±10m wide, and they're forever damaging the sense of place because they have to cut into and mar the hillside, so as to have an 80km /hour straight line through a residential area. 

You can still feel the "sense of place" in these images:


So I spoke to the supervisor engineer and showed him the area of my concern. I explained that I would please like to be put into contact with anyone who could possibly assist with mitigating damage to the hillside.

However, after emailing my request, the response I eventually got from him, via a Whatsapp follow-up was, "In terms of your email though, I'm unable to assist with numbers or persons who share your sentiment of stopping the construction."

And he also reassured me that they would not be extending the road as far as I feared. "... scope of work doesn't exceed beyond that point, it was always limited to a circular ending at the hill or just before the hill".

I thought that would be the end of it. But then last Wednesday, I came across the surveyor surveying the land well beyond where I had been assured they were not going to be extending the road. So I spoke to him and asked what the plan was, and if I could see it. He didn't have the plans with, but he told me that the reason they are cutting into the hillside is to keep the road to spec for 80km /hour. Through a residential area.


It's sheer folly to put a huge highway to the view site on the top of that hill. Fruitless and wasteful expenditure in the extreme! In any sane society, holistic cognizance would be taken of the heritage site potential for the area where they are laying tar, and an effort would be made to preserve it for posterity. But there's been no public participation or opportunity to see and comment on the actual plans, and they've been drawn up by someone with absolutely no idea about the sensitivity or the beauty of the area that they are blighting forever. I've had the pic just above as my Facebook cover photo since April already. It's one of the best pics I've ever accidentally taken, and is testimony of the beauty of the hillside and surrounds which they are totally mindlessly and unnecessarily impacting. A view site that you can drive to in your car, and see Hole in the Wall without ever truly experiencing it.

If anything at all besides a "rolling green hill", it should be a footpath. With possibly a boma and a braai area. Not a parking lot!



Hi Jeff. I am a reporter for the Daily Dispatch. Is there a number I can reach you on? Many thanks

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