In line with the Integrated Urban Development Framework (IUDF), the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) with its partners designed an Intermediate City Municipalities programme that provides support to enable them to respond to challenges that municipalities face. The City of uMhlathuze was chosen as one of two intermediate cities for the IUDF pilot project because it is one of the best performing municipalities that has amongst others, achieved clean audits consistently for the past five years.
As part of the programme, COGTA hosted a three day workshop (8-10 November) with the City of uMhlathuze officials. The aim of the workshop was to explore opportunities and constraints and how the municipality sees itself, living, working and playing 20 years from now. Day two of the workshop focussed on spatial visioning. The session was particularly useful in that it included government, the private sector, community representatives and other stakeholders – taking an all-of-society approach to co-create a vision for the municipal area. This visioning exercise is the first of its kind in the IUDF pilot programme. It is part of the technical assistance that the City receives in order to make the implementation of the IUDF an all-of-society process while pursuing the strategic goal of spatial integration.
Spatial visioning is the first step on the long journey to realise spatial transformation, the key outcome of the IUDF. The nine policy levers of the IUDF seek to address in combination the structural drivers that are preventing this transformation. Many of the levers were addressed during the workshop process, and there was an understanding in the room that integrated urban planning, integrated transport, integrated sustainable human settlements, integrated urban infrastructure, inclusive economic development, to mention a few of the levers, form the basis for developing inclusive, resilient and liveable urban settlements, where citizens can live, work and play.
Brenda Strachan from uMhlathuze’s City Development Department in the Spatial and Environmental Planning Section said that the session was “useful in that we are starting to internalise spatial development and making all the different departments, such as finance, engineering, corporate services, and external role players, understand that they also have a role in defining the future of the city – it’s not just the planners.” She added that “Everybody has to contribute because everybody has to live in this space.”
Yondela Silimela, from Morfosis Advisory and Investments, facilitated the session. She started by recapping the discussions from day one when the workshop explored four scenarios 1) Escalating climate change 2) Sustainable development 3) A world where there is less inequality 4) Imagine a world of high life expectancy.
The mega trends that emerged from these scenarios are around disruptive economies. Firstly, the creation of a sharing economy, for example, witnessed by the rise of Uber and Airbnb and secondly, services are being geared to go to the consumer, as opposed to the consumer going to the service. The greatest challenge was unemployment and access to economic opportunities. Climate change was next, and this was linked to the third challenge of food insecurity. Transport - public transport and alternative ways of getting around the city - was identified as the biggest opportunity and this was followed by ‘alternatives’ – alternative energy sources, physical structures etc - and finally connectivity and the internet of things and a connected world with greater access to markets.
This session kicked off by defining the principles that underpin the future that the stakeholders want to see:
Quality of life
These principles can guide decision-making regarding where people in the municipality work, live and play, and subsequently where money will be invested by both the private and public sector.
Working in three groups, live, work and play, the participants analysed their respective components. Thoughts were put down on paper locating centres of opportunity, population, transport routes and corridors, untapped potential etc to help guide the future. The groups presented their maps and ideas. As Ms Silimela noted, there was much energy and creativity in the room.
In conclusion, Ms Silimela highlighted the items that struck her in the presentations.
The City’s Spatial Development Framework needs to emphasise the drivers of the economy and how to optimise existing infrastructure, eg the port. Ms Silimela observed that “There’s a sense that we need to take more time to understand the economic side of things. If we have the deepest port in the country and we’re not optimising it then there’s something wrong.”
There was an interesting disconnect between the ‘play’ and the ‘live’ groups and Ms Silimela pointed out that if nodes are going to be developed then the social and economic infrastructures need to be aligned in that you can’t have jobs and social amenities located far from each other and where people actually live. However, she noted “The consistency is glaring and encouraging in how you see the coastal area functioning. In the meantime it’s functioning as mining and that’s quite unpleasant but it’s certainly intended to be your golden coastline which is an attractive area for high-end residential development.”
Regarding thinking differently about employment opportunities, Ms Silimela noted “When we talk live, work, play – we must be conscious of the things that have a physical location and the things that don’t necessarily have a physical location.”
Strengthening collaboration with neighbouring municipalities and understanding that this municipal area doesn’t exist in a vacuum is another point Ms Silimela highlighted.
Bheki Bhutulezi, Chairperson of the Religious sector forum of uMhlathuze, said that the workshop “is really giving hope for our city… It was very interesting to look at the future of our city and what we want to see happening.”