What will become of Northern Farm?

The future of Northern Farm, a popular weekend recreation area where a system of dams and irrigation assist in filtering water from the water treatment plant, hangs in the balance.

The farm is productive, carrying 2000-strong herd of Bovelder cattle and 350 hectares of grazing, mealies and other crops. The farm is also equipped, including specifically nine centre pivots and other irrigation equipment. The 70 contract staff employed on the farm, are being laid off.

Northern Farm – also referred to as Diepsloot Nature Reserve – offers over 2500ha of open space for recreational use. There are several dams in the reserve as well as 270 different bird species. The area is well-used by cyclists, horse riders, hikers and birders. There is even a full Olympic standard equestrian course used for annual shows. Many mountain bike enthusiasts using the farm on weekends are already frustrated by the few places close to home to safely enjoy a ride.

But all of that is about to come to an end. Why? Joburg Water has given notice that all farming activities must be terminated within the next few months.

The reason given is that farming is not part of Joburg Water’s core business. The City of Johannesburg Municipality is touted to take over but it is unclear how Northern Farm will be utilised in future, and what that will mean for recreational users.

Implications for water pollution

About 20 megalitres of water from Northern Works’ sewage treatment plant are presently circulated through the farm’s dams before flowing into the Jukskei River. As the water processing plant is reliant on this process of circulating water, the concern exists that waste will be dumped directly into the river, as happens at so many other works.

Astri Leroy of the Spider Club led a walk in the adjoining Rhenosterspruit Nature Conservancy on the weekend. She has called for a protest, saying “I don’t mean on e-mail – no one takes any notice of that a REAL protest of thousands of cyclists and greenies rolling up to Joburg Water .. or the city’s Council Chambers or both would make an impression.”

She says that the drive to protest should not be left to the cyclists, people who love the wide open spaces, or anyone who wishes to try to keep the Jukskei River clean. Instead, it is “anyone who uses toilets that feed into the Northern Sewage Works, even if you have no interest in nature, farming, cycling or the great outdoors”. It is a sharp reminder that the disposal of sewage and the problems related to water treatment begin in the home – your home!
The de-proclamation of a reserve

Diepsploot Nature Reserve may not immediately fit the image of “nature reserve”, and the activities may not be those traditionally associated with a “park”. However, this is an open space bordering in a bustling metropolitan area, and as such represents a crucial element to well-being – of people and of ecosystems.

Yet, notice has been posted for an application to de-proclaim the Diepsloot Nature Reserve. The Reserve was proclaimed in 1960, and includes both Northern Farm and Northern Works, on both sides of the R114 and the N14. There is also an application for a major housing development south of the N14 highway.

The public has until March 18 to put in comments on both these applications. Send comments to Samantha Bush of Nemai Consulting.

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