South African Journal of Science
On-line version ISSN 1996-7489
TARU, Phillip; CHINGOMBE, Wisemen and MUKWADA, Geoffrey. South Africa's Golden Gate Highlands National Park management plan: Critical reflections. S. Afr. j. sci. [online]. 2013, vol.109, n.11-12, pp. 1-3. ISSN 1996-7489.
The Golden Gate Highlands National Park (GGHNP) is on the foothills of the Maluti Mountains and is the only national park in the eastern Free State Province of South Africa. The park is famous for its impressive sandstone formations.1 It was established in 1963 for the purpose of protecting a pristine area with much emphasis on conserving the sandstone formations and the montane and Afro-Alpine grassland biome.2 The GGHNP is situated in QwaQwa, which is well known for lacking sustainable development,3 and has been declared a Presidential Nodal Point because of high poverty, population growth and unemployment. These problems persist despite the fact that the park is the province's major tourist attraction. Previous research in and around the park has focused on geology, palaeontological finds, slope forms and the prominent lichen weathering,1 and remarkably little has been done on the institutional framework and policy environment governing the management and conservation of park resources. The current park management plan was compiled in 2011. This plan provides the legal base for managing resources in the GGHNP. The absence of a comprehensive database on heritage sites complicates the park management process. Whilst remarkable progress has been made in zoning the park to establish a coherent spatial framework, more still needs to be done in using GIS to develop an Environmental Management System. Here we explore the extent to which the current institutional framework and policy initiatives in the management plan foster collaboration between community and national bodies, for purposes of enhancing conservation and the economic potential of heritage resources whilst broadening the scope for scientific research. The broad objective of the park management plan is to conserve biodiversity, with an emphasis on provision of an excellent learning platform, sustainable tourism opportunities and building of cooperation between stakeholders in order to promote local and regional economic development.
Keywords : Golden Gate; heritage conservation; local economic development; management plan; park resources.